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Trade chiefs to speed WTO deal in India talks today

The United States, the European Union, India and Brazil will meet on Thursday.

business Updated: Apr 12, 2007 08:43 IST

Ministers from four trade powers kicked off two days of meetings on Wednesday aimed at galvanising global free trade talks, and Brazil said differences between developed and developing nations were narrowing slowly.

The United States, the European Union, India and Brazil talked bilaterally before coming together on Thursday, their first four-way meeting since July when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations all but collapsed over agriculture.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, speaking after a meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, told reporters differences were narrowing slowly.

Asked about his expectations for this week's talks, Amorim said he was hoping to get a clearer sense of how the WTO negotiations should proceed. "I'm expecting general contours of processes and time lines," he said.

The Doha trade round, named after Qatar's capital where it started, has missed deadline after deadline as negotiators have struggled to find common ground mostly on farming but also on market access for industrial goods and services.

The United States is under pressure to make deeper cuts in farm subsidies, while the European Union has been pressed for greater reductions in tariffs on farm products.

Developing nations, led by India and Brazil, are being urged to open their markets more to farm and industrial products.

Mandelson met U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who later paid a visit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath also met his counterparts and told reporters he was confident all the countries wanted to move forward in strengthening multilateral trade.

Degree of urgency

Both Mandelson and Amorim have said they are positive about the talks but Amorim stressed that finding a solution to differences was urgent.

"Sometimes it's important to take a medicine," he said. "You don't know if you will die if you don't take the medicine. But you should take it anyway."

The talks, underway for more than five years, began with a view to boosting the world economy and lifting millions out of poverty by lowering trade barriers.