Global Trade Negotiators Push for Progress, Plan for Possible Failure



World Trade Organization talks entered a second day in Hong Kong with delegates saying they will need more time to reach an agreement on liberalizing commerce. Delegates are now looking past this week in hope of salvaging free trade goals.

Key delegates are acknowledging this week may not be sufficient to conclude a trade deal. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman says World Trade Organization members should set a new deadline for a deal to "keep the pressure on."

"We cannot afford the Doha round to fail out of inaction or lack of vision," said Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, who is proposing April as a new deadline. "Poor countries cannot wait for another 20 years to see true reforms in agriculture trade."

Envoys from 149 member economies of the WTO are here in Hong Kong to discuss ways of implementing trade goals established in 2001 in Doha, Qatar.

The WTO originally had hoped to use this week's meeting to reach a deal on the various ways trade would be liberalized. However, talks have been deadlocked primarily by a dispute over market access between rich and poor nations.

Less developed countries want Europe and the United States to accept more agricultural imports. Richer countries want poor countries to open their markets for more imports of manufactured goods and services.

Chinese officials said Wednesday underdeveloped nations deserve to receive special consideration from richer countries. Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai told delegates his country should receive favorable treatment in agriculture.

Mr. Bo says even though China's industry is rapidly developing, its farming sector still resembles that of a developing nation. For that reason, he says, China should receive the same sort of agricultural trade concessions rich countries make to less developed countries.

Anti-WTO activists continued to hold protests against the talks, and several dozen scuffled with Hong Kong police Tuesday morning. The protests, however, have been generally peaceful attempts to explain the activists' concerns that liberalized trade will hurt farmers and the poor.

Negotiations are expected to go on around the clock until Sunday, when the talks close. Experts say failure to produce an agreement is likely to strain the WTO's role as a mechanism for achieving a consensus on global commerce.

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