Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fears of protectionism drive efforts to reach global trade deal

The word from Davos on Saturday is that international trade ministers have agreed to redouble their efforts to reach a new global trade deal this year. Meeting in Switzerland on Saturday during the World Trade Organization's World Economic Forum, ministers from 17 countries and the European Union did agree to keep international trade free of most tariffs during deliberations. "It is very clear that we have to be better at communicating the message to all the people across the world that in order to come out of the economic downturn we need to keep trade open," said Catherine Ashton, a European Union trade commissioner, according to the Reuters international news service. While the ministers agreed that keeping trade open would help the staggering world economy recover more quickly, they failed to schedule the next WTO meeting for all 153 members. Some countries want to settle on a strategy before next April's G20 summit for rich and emerging countries. The so-called Doha round of talks, aimed at opening up world trade in food, goods and financial services, has been ongoing since 2001 but parties have been unable to reach agreement despite the world economic slump. "The Doha round will be the biggest stimulus package ever," Swiss Economy Minister Doris Leuthard said, according to Reuters. Trade has already begun falling across the globe, Reuters said, and an agreement could prevent a growing trend toward new import barriers. Trade officials also questioned the propriety of "Buy America" provisions in U.S. President Barak Obama's proposed $825 billion stimulus package pending before the U.S. Congress, Reuters said.

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