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Trade Liberalization Talks Could Resume in October, Says US Official


Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has been moving aggressively to retrieve the negotiating momentum that was lost at the Mexico meeting in a rich-versus-poor-country dispute over agricultural subsidies

He says trade ministers from around the world may meet in Geneva in October to discuss restarting the global trade liberalization talks that were stalled five months ago at a meeting in Mexico. There is growing support for a resumption of what is called the Doha round of trade talks.

Mr. Zoellick made the suggestion in Singapore, the last Asian stop on a round-the-world tour to promote a resumption of the Doha round. The World Bank says a new trade deal could pump another $500 billion into a global economy that is still feeling the effects of the 2001 recession.

The U.S. official has been moving aggressively to retrieve the negotiating momentum that was lost at the Mexico meeting in a rich-versus-poor-country dispute over agricultural subsidies. Mr. Zoellick is seeking support in the developing world by proposing to eliminate trade- distorting export subsidies on agricultural goods.

Trade ministers from Commonwealth nations are in Washington to present their ideas on the need to resume the talks. Following a meeting with U.S. officials, Idris Waziri, Nigeria's commerce minister, says rich and poor countries need to show flexibility, in order to move the talks forward. Agriculture, he says, is the key issue, since up to 80 percent of Nigeria's population is linked to farming. Mr. Waziri says Nigerians would benefit from increased trade.

"We believe that trade is a very strong tool for combating poverty and unemployment," he said. "It is a tool we can use to create wealth."

Another Commonwealth official, Barbados Foreign Minister Billie Miller, agrees that agriculture is the make-or-break issue for the Doha round. She says the poorest developing countries need assured access to markets in Europe and North America.

"But you must recognize that small economies, such as those you will find in the Caribbean, in the Pacific, and other parts of the world, will require special and differential treatment," he said. "Even if we run as fast as we can, on the same spot is where we will find ourselves."

Trade is proving to be a contentious issue in this year's U.S. presidential campaign. The United States registered a record $489 billion trade deficit in 2003, and manufacturing jobs are being lost to lower cost countries, particularly China.

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