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Bush vows big push for Doha deal before leaving

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush vowed on Tuesday to press hard for a successful conclusion of the nearly 7-year-old round of world trade talks during his last few months in office.

U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at the White House Summit on International Development at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, October 21, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing

“The recent impasse in the Doha Round of trade talks is disappointing, but that doesn’t have to be the final word. And so before I leave office I’m going to press hard to make sure we have a successful Doha round,” Bush said at a White House summit on international development.

Even with an all-out effort, it would be difficult for negotiators to finish every detail of a new world trade agreement before Bush leaves the White House on Jan. 20.

However, U.S. officials have said it was still possible to reach a deal in 2008 on key agricultural, manufacturing and services trade issues at the heart of the round.

That would give important momentum to the talks and increase the chance the next U.S. president -- be it Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain -- will invest early energy in steering them to a successful end.

Bush said it was important countries not worsen the global financial crisis by closing their markets to imports.

“In the midst of this crisis, I believe the world ought to send a clear signal that we remain committed to open markets by reducing barriers to trade across the globe,” he said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Silva made the same argument in his weekly radio address on Monday after returning from a trip to Spain and India where he discussed the global financial crisis and trade talks with Prime Ministers Jose Luiz Zapatero of Spain and Manmohan Singh of India.

“During this moment of international crisis it’s important to conclude the Doha accord so we can show the world something positive, something to restore optimism in humanity,” Lula said. “I came back from India more confident,” he said.

Disagreement between India and the United States over safeguards in farm trade was one of the main reasons that talks collapsed in July at a trade ministers meeting in Geneva.

Meanwhile, the European Union’s new trade chief on Monday stressed the role the United States must play in pushing the Doha round to successful conclusion.

“Particularly at a time when the economies of the world face turbulence, we need to redouble our efforts to make sure we have agreement, and America has a very clear and strong place to play in that,” EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton told the European Parliament’s trade committee.