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WTO chief says no chance of global trade deal

Geneva, Nov 27 (): Negotiators came very close to clinch a free-trade deal but failed Tuesday; such a deal could have helped increase the world economy by $1 trillion a year and cleared the way for a broader global agreement.

WTO chief Roberto Azevedo said diplomats from the WTO’s 159 members tried hard but “cannot cross the finish line here in Geneva” ahead of a summit where ministers were to have signed the deal in Bali, Indonesia next week. Reaching a deal in Bali is seen as a final effort to recover a broader 12-year effort to ease global trade rules.

Azevedo said discussions by ambassadors in Geneva had gone as far as they could. Specific problems and last-minute backtracking can only be overcome by trade ministers at a biennial meeting on Dec 3-6, he said.

U.S. Ambassador Michael Punke said that he had been hopeful the WTO would clinch the first worldwide trade deal in its 18-year history till 10 p.m. on Sunday. But last-minute problems arose and lasted until breakfast on Monday.

Punke said almost by 7 a.m. on Monday morning, it appeared that the deal was no more. He further said that they were sceptical that those who seem to be denying to reach agreement can now be persuaded by another long night of negotiation.

When asked who was to blame to several diplomats leaving the meeting, they mentioned India without being prompted. Some also named Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. India had earlier won a large business on agriculture but was said to suddenly turn into an obstacle, apparently to gain more in agriculture.

In recent years, trade talks have advanced more quickly when they involved only two sides. The European Union, for example, has settled free trade deals with South Korea and later Canada. It is in separate talks with the U.S. and Japan as well.

The failure to reach a global deal would “have serious consequences for the multilateral trade system” and upset the WTO’s reliability, Azevedo said, because the organization will only be viewed as a trade court and no longer as a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements.