November 26, 2015 / 4:09 PM / in 2 years

WTO talks stuck again as ministers prepare to meet, Azevedo says

GENEVA (Reuters) - World trade talks are deadlocked and ministers are unlikely to find a way out of the impasse when they meet in Nairobi next month, World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo said on Thursday.

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo gestures during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, November 26, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

“We clearly are stuck in the negotiations at this point in time,” Azevedo told a news conference. “I think it will be very difficult to reconcile the views. I would say impossible at this point in time.”

The Geneva-based WTO has been trying and failing to agree on a worldwide package of trade reforms since a meeting in Doha in 2001 hatched an ambitious plan for knocking down trade barriers.

Since then the WTO has still managed to agree a few changes to the global trading rules.

Two years ago it agreed to standardize and streamline customs procedures, and Nairobi could still see agreements on other issues, such as an end to tariffs on $1.3 trillion of IT exports.

Brazil and the European Union are also leading a push to end agricultural export subsidies at Nairobi.

But differences over completing the so-called Doha round have never ceased and the WTO’s 10th ministerial conference, which opens in Nairobi on Dec. 15, is not about to produce a common view on how to take the talks forward.

“I think that’s very unlikely to happen,” Azevedo said.

Azevedo said the biggest potential winners from a global trade deal would be the poorest countries, most of whom are excluded from regional trade talks going on elsewhere, such as the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Among the WTO’s 161 members, which will grow to 162 when Kazakhstan joins on Monday, some insist on focusing on Doha to the exclusion of all else, while others want to tackle trade reforms in a completely different way, Azevedo said.

“There is no agreement among WTO members on what they want to do. I just work there,” he said. “I think even after Nairobi we’re going to spend some time trying to figure out how we can best interact in the WTO that would allow us to deliver with the negotiating function of the organization.”

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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