Brazil Official Says Doha Trade Talks Closer to Deal

By Raymond Colitt | March 25, 2008

The Doha round of global trade talks are close to reaching an accord in principle on industrial tariffs and farm subsidies and quotas, Brazil’s chief trade negotiator said Monday.

“We’re closer to an agreement than ever before,” Robert Azevedo told Reuters. “It is within grasp.” He cited an increased sense of urgency among negotiators to reach an accord before the U.S. presidential election in November and particularly more willingness by the European Union and the United States in recent weeks.

The key trade players had moved from repeating their established positions to actively seek solutions and bridging differences among members, Azevedo said.

There was no certainty of success and a likely ministerial-level meeting in late April or early May would be decisive, he said.

The objective was for the current U.S. government to sign-off on an agreement before the winner of November’s presidential election took office, Azevedo said.

Brazil, one of the world’s biggest producers of farm goods, has played a major role in the Doha trade talks representing the interests of developing countries.

The Doha round, launched in 2001 to boost the global economy and ease poverty in the developing world, has been bogged down by disagreements over farm subsidies and import tariffs.

[IJ: It is also important for the financial services industry, including insurers and brokers, that a deal be struck. Any further relaxation of trade restrictions, leading to more opening of emerging markets, is generally considered to be dependent on a compromise being reached on primary goods, mainly farm products].

But the talks have shown some signs of progressing in recent days. Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said last week they were optimistic an agreement would be reached soon.

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