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WTO Talks Fail to Make Progress After Four Days


Members of the World Trade Organization are struggling to keep talks going, after four days of stalemate in Hong Kong.

Four days of talks have failed to make progress on any of the key issues for the 149 World Trade Organization members. Battles continued Friday with developing nations insisting they will not cede to U.S. and E.U requests for them to open up their markets to industrial products, unless rich nations agree to eliminate their supports to farmers.

Zambian Commerce Minister Dipak Patel spoke for a grouping of the world's least developed countries.

"We want to know how and when," said Dipak Patel. "Our answer to them is 'if you cannot give us an answer on how and when,' then our response to those who can't do this [is] 'what part of 'no' don't you understand?"

The talks aim to find ways to implement a plan to lift millions out of poverty worldwide by knocking down trade barriers.

WTO officials say that on Saturday they will release a revised draft of the declaration that is to be issued at the end of the conference on Sunday. The draft aims to demonstrate that at least incremental movement is being made.

Most of that movement so far has been in working toward an agreement by rich countries to remove tariffs and quotas on imports from the least-developed nations.

India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath indicated that was not enough to move the overall talks forward.

He suggested Friday that no agreement on agriculture was near and he renewed attacks on rich countries for refusing to make faster, deeper cuts in farm supports.

"What amazes me is that the European Union and the U.S. are saying 'please pay us to stop doing what we shouldn't be doing,' that is, distorting global trade," said Kamal Nath. "They want a payment for something they are not supposed to do in any case."

Over the past four days, the U.S. delegation has offered a number of other concessions, including doubling the amount of trade development aid it is willing to give each year and giving free access to cotton from West Africa.

The United States in October proposed a package of cuts to farm subsidies, and has urged the European Union to sign on to it to get the talks moving.

EU officials, however, say they have already offered as much as they can, particularly given the lack of a reciprocal deal from developing nations.

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