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World Trade Talks Produce 'Incremental' Progress


Officials at six-power world trade talks in London say there has been no breakthrough and only incremental progress in their drive to tear down trade barriers in developed and developing countries.

The London talks brought together trade representatives from Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States.

The two-day meeting focused on how to reduce agricultural subsidies in the West and open up protected industrial markets in the developing nations ahead of an April deadline set by the World Trade Organization.

European Union Trade Representative Peter Mandelson says more work is needed. "We did not expect to be announcing a major breakthrough today and made that clear. It's not, in any case, our job to do that. That is the job of the WTO membership as a whole. But we have had a constructive and useful meeting," he said.

The Brazilian representative, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, says he believes the talks are going too slowly to meet the April deadline. "I think the click is not yet there, to have the deal. I mean we have been working in an incremental way and personally I don't believe we can get to an agreement by incremental steps at this stage," he said.

Brazil and Britain are calling for a summit of leaders from the 149 nations in the WTO to push through an agreement, but details have not been announced.

The aim of the world trade negotiations, known as the Doha round, is to promote the development of the world's poorest nations.

Critics of the London talks say Africa, as the poorest continent, should have had a representative at the meeting.

The British charity Oxfam says the West's promises to promote trade and debt relief for Africa have not materialized, falling short of the pledges British Prime Minister Tony Blair won last year from the world's richest countries.

Mr. Blair's Commission on Africa last March called for $25 billion a year in poverty reduction programs for Africa. It also called on the rich countries to end agricultural subsides and trade barriers that hurt African exporters.

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