THE The talks began in 2001 with a target completion date of 2004 that was not met; another deadline of April this year was set but it passed without any agreement. Now the absolutely final date is the end of 2006 but if no settlement is reached by then the so-called Doha round of talks on tariff reductions on imports of agricultural and industrial good will have to be declared a failure. Pascal Levy, head of the World Trade Organisation, is a vastly experienced international trade negotiator so when he said after the latest deadlocked talks last weekend, We are in a crisis, it is time for everyone to take notice. The original aim of the Doha round of talks was that the world's richest nations, the US, the European Union members and Japan, should reduce their trade barriers and huge agricultural subsidies in return for increased market access on all sides. Along the way, however, that aim has fractured into disputes on all sides over the degree of change required. Mr Lamy knows what is needed: the US must reduce its subsidies to farmers; the EU must lower duties of agricultural imports; the G-20 group of developing countries, led by Brazil and India, must open up access to their industrial markets. Put that way, it sounds simple but, of course, it isn't. However Pascal Lamy believes that although there is a crisis the gaps are not unbridgeable, although time is now very short.
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