Trade ministers from 18 nations and political entities are meeting behind closed doors in Mexico City to seek consensus on the agenda for a new round of world trade talks.
The meeting is taking place in a luxury hotel under tight security. Around two dozen anti-globalization protesters tried to demonstrate near the hotel, but they were outnumbered by Mexican riot police, who kept them far from the site.
The goal of the meeting is to work out a framework for talks to be held in Qatar in November. The last round of world trade talks ended in 1994 and led to the creation of the World Trade Organization the next year. But efforts to launch a new round of talks in the city of Seattle in 1999 ended in failure.
The trade ministers meeting here are trying to work out basic agreements on such divisive issues as antidumping rules and agricultural subsidies. Developing nations are demanding more access to Europe for such commodities as beef and grain, but European Union nations have maintained subsidies for exports and barriers to imports. The developing nations also want rules against dumping, whereby their markets are flooded with cheap goods from other nations. Poorer nations say the benefits of free trade have mostly been seen in the rich countries and they are looking for a new round of trade talks to address the current inequalities.
Although the gap remains wide, World Trade Organization officials say they are hopeful that these informal discussions here in Mexico City will lead to an agreement that can be embraced at the larger meeting in November. The representatives at this meeting are only a small fraction of the organization's 142 members, but they are thought to be representative of the various points of view within the larger body. The meeting is to conclude on Saturday.