The World Trade Organisation hopes that trade powers will renew efforts to reach a deal in the long-running Doha talks to free up global commerce this year, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said on Thursday.
Lamy, speaking at the U.K. Department for International Development, said developing countries were particularly at risk from the slowdown in trade caused by the global crisis.
"Today it is clear that trade is one of the casualties of this economic crisis and that we run the risk that one of the engines of growth -- in fact, one that is very important for many developing countries -- stalls," he said, according to a text of his remarks issued by the WTO.
The Doha round was launched in late 2001 to boost world trade and help developing countries export their way out of poverty, but agreement has proved elusive.
The G20 group of rich and emerging nations called in November for an outline deal by the end of 2008 to help counter the economic crisis.
But last month Lamy decided political differences were still to wide to invite ministers to Geneva to seek a breakthrough.
In his speech on Thursday he praised Britain's support for the negotiations and Prime Minister Gordon Brown's leadership.
"It is this leadership that we are counting on to ensure that the coming G20 summit in April here in London will result in a recommitment to conclude the negotiations this year," said Lamy, who also met Brown on Thursday.
Lamy said the crisis made it more urgent to reform the global trading system to help developing countries.
"There is no doubt that this crisis will have profound and possibly prolonged effects on developing countries, the least developed among them in particular, whose recent good economic performance has been largely driven by external factors," he said.
The main developing country exports -- oil, minerals, agricultural commodities and textiles, as well as tourism already falling as global demand contracts, he said.
As part of efforts to prevent protectionism taking hold in the crisis, the WTO will start issuing regular reports this week monitoring trade policy moves and trends in trade, he said.
The WTO is also tracking trends in trade finance, which showed signs of drying up last year amid the credit crunch. Lamy said the WTO would hold a meeting of major players in trade finance, such as banks and export credit agencies, in March to take stock of the sector.