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Top US Trade Official Optimistic About Global Trade Talks

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab says she believes the meeting of trade ministers in the Swiss Alpine village of Davos last week has given momentum to the restarting of the stalled Doha Round of Trade Negotiations. About 30 trade ministers met on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab says she is very pleased with the way things turned out in Davos and believes the Doha Round may be back on track.

"I think coming out of Davos, a number of us emerged with a new sense of optimism and a sense of momentum that had been sorely lacking since July," she said. "There was clear agreement on the need to move forward with the Doha Round and a sense of urgency that if at all possible, we need to identify a means of achieving a breakthrough and ultimately a successful trade agreement."

The trade round was launched in 2001. Talks collapsed in July mainly over agricultural subsidies. The European Union does not believe Washington's proposal to cut farm subsidies goes far enough. The United States wants the EU to make deeper cuts in its tariffs on farm import.

But both agree that large developing countries, such as Brazil and India, should open their economies to industrial goods and services.

Schwab says a lot of tough bargaining and many compromises will have to be made to achieve a global trade agreement. She says the trade ministers who met in Davos are aware of the pitfalls ahead. She says they discussed how to turn their political will and sense of urgency to complete the round into reality.

"We know we have a lot of work to do," she added. "We know that ultimately this round needs to alleviate poverty. This round needs to unlock the potential, the economic potential of new trade flows. And I am very pleased to be a part of this and just as the last several months have been months of very intensive quiet consultations and discussions, I suspect the next several months will be characterized by much the same."

Schwab is losing no time in moving things along. Fresh on the heels of the Davos conference, she says she and her team had lengthy discussions with European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

While in Geneva, she has also met with Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, and the head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy. From here, she goes on to London, where she says she will meet with the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.