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World Trade Talks: Moving, but Slowly

Agriculture remains one of the most important trade issues. Developing nations want the big industrial powers to cut aid to farmers. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Today we have the second half of a report on the history of the World Trade Organization.

The W.T.O. was created in nineteen ninety-five after the eighth round of world trade talks. The rounds began in nineteen forty-seven, each one on different areas of trade.

The W.T.O. tried to launch a ninth round in Seattle in nineteen ninety-nine. But trade ministers argued and free trade opponents rioted.

The W.T.O. launched the ninth round in Doha, Qatar, in November of two thousand one. The new round was named the Doha Development Agenda. This was meant to show developing countries that the goals included reducing poverty.

Two other ministerial conferences took place: in Cancun, Mexico, in two thousand three and Hong Kong in two thousand five. There was little progress toward agreement on major issues.

W.T.O. Director General Pascal Lamy of France suspended the negotiations last July. But talks restarted in January.

Mister Lamy said he planned to send a strong message this week to leaders of the Group of Eight and other nations at meetings in Germany. He said their active support is needed for a successful and balanced outcome. Last month he said the negotiations were moving but not very fast.

Twenty-one issues are listed under the Doha Development Agenda. At the heart, though, is agriculture. Developing nations want industrial countries to end farm supports that critics say drive down prices on world markets.

The United States has pushed for as much as an eighty-five percent reduction and an expanded list of banned subsidies. European countries have resisted deep cuts. Last week, the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, said France would veto any agreement that did not meet its requirements.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson warns that if the talks fail now, they would not reopen before two thousand ten.

The European Union, the United States, India and Brazil are preparing for talks later this month. These four major W.T.O. members are working for a deal on the Doha round by the end of the year.

The World Trade Organization currently has one hundred fifty members. The largest economy not a member is Russia. After years of trying, Russia hopes to be in the W.T.O. as early as January.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. Part one of our report is at I'm Steve Ember.