Trade ministers gloomy on WTO prospects

Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:38am EST
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By Gleb Bryanski and Gerard Wynn

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Trade ministers expressed gloom on Saturday about the prospects of concluding stalled global trade liberalization talks this year, with many blaming the United States for foot-dragging.

Ministers from about 20 major economies held informal talks on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, but Egypt's trade minister said they made little progress.

"I don't think very much came out of this meeting unfortunately," Rachid Mohamed Rachid said.

"If we don't have the participation at ministerial or even ambassador level from the United States, of course it doesn't give us a positive signal," he said.

Symbolizing the Obama administration's reluctance to commit to an endgame in the long-running negotiations, the world's biggest economy sent only a deputy ambassador who was not authorized to speak.

"We had other representatives who could not take the floor because they were not ministers," Swiss President Doris Leuthard, who chaired the meeting, told a news conference. "Those who are not present don't have the floor."

Leaders of the G20 grouping of major economies, including U.S. President Barack Obama, agreed in Pittsburgh last September on the goal of wrapping up the Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations in 2010.

Rachid said there was very little prospect of meeting that goal, adding: "We are not optimistic, we are very concerned."   Continued...

<p>Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 28, 2010. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>