* 2011 seen as window of opportunity -- maybe the last
* Seven key players agreed to push for outline deal by July
By Jonathan Lynn
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 29 Two dozen trade
ministers met on Saturday to review progress on finishing the
Doha round after seven major trading powers agreed to push for a
deal in the decade-old talks by July.
The trade ministers' lunch, a traditional fixture hosted by
the Swiss government on the sidelines of the World Economic
Forum in Davos, is taking place as World Trade Organization
members intensify efforts to finally clinch a deal.
Negotiators at WTO headquarters in Geneva, who have stepped
up the pace of talks in recent weeks, have been waiting for
ministers in Davos to give a clear signal that they should make
the necessary concessions, compromises and trade-offs.
Seven key players agreed on Friday to do just that and push
for an outline agreement by the summer.
"Everybody agrees we should try to do this for July," EU
Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told reporters late on Friday.
"We don't have an agreement tonight -- you have an agreement
when you have an agreement. But everybody has engaged to do
this," he said, speaking after the EU hosted a dinner for
ministers from Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan and the
Leaders of the G20 summit called in Seoul last year for a
deal and said 2011 represented a window of opportunity, which
many negotiators and economists believe could be the last.
The talks have staggered on since their launch in late 2001
to open world markets and help poor countries benefit from
But officials say there is a new sense of hope this time.
Trade is moving up the agenda in the United States as
President Barack Obama's administration prepares to take
free-trade pacts with South Korea and Colombia to Congress.
Washington is calling on the big emerging countries like
China, India and Brazil to open their markets more to foreign --
including American -- businesses as a reflection of their
growing economic clout.
The emerging economies argue that the deal is largely in
place, based on the last intensive spate of negotiations in
2008, and if Washington wants more it must pay with further
concessions of its own.
But behind the public posturing is a clear recognition that
the final phase of talks will require give and take by everyone.
The question now is whether everyone can make the
concessions that will allow their partners to sell a deal to
Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said everyone had
domestic political concerns that needed to be respected, but
countries should look at the benefit to the global economy of a
new trade deal, not just their national concerns.
"You've got to be clear where your bottom line is and then
you go into the negotiations with a give-give kind of attitude,"
she told Reuters.
De Gucht said ministers would tell their officials they must
do what it takes to negotiate a deal, leaving just a few key
political issues for ministers to handle in the final stage.
July would not be a final agreement, but the broad outlines
of a deal, such as formulas for cutting tariffs, and major
exceptions to that, leaving the rest of the year for negotiators
to fill in the details.
That would still make it possible to meet the G20 call, with
the complete agreement wrapped up at the WTO's ministerial
conference in December. But the timetable would be tight.
For full coverage, blogs and TV from Davos go to
(editing by Mike Peacock)