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WTO Reaches Compromise Trade Accord
Trade ministers of the World Trade Organization (WTO)'s 149 members agreed on Sunday, December 18, to end farm export subsidies by 2013 and open rich-country markets a bit wider to the world's poorest nations, saving long-running global trade talks from collapse.
"We are tipping the balance in the WTO back in favor of the developing countries," said WTO Director General Pascal Lamy after the agreement was finally approved, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"You have put the round back on track, you have given it a sense of urgency," Lamy said, referring to the Doha Round of trade negotiations launched in Qatar in 2001.
WTO delegates approved a document providing for European Union agricultural export subsidies to be scrapped by 2013, a key stumbling block which the United States and developing nations had wanted removed in 2010.
The agreement came after six round-the-clock days of fractious talks between ministers at a Hong Kong harbor-side convention centre and anti-globalization protests outside that erupted into vicious street battles.
It is intended to guide ministers in further negotiations, with the goal of approving a final trade liberalization deal and completing the current round of negotiations by the end of 2006.
Lamy said another ministerial meeting would be held in April.
"In a week of disappointments, this is no small prize," said European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.
He said the agreement was "acceptable" after other countries had agreed to the EU compromise on the date for eliminating the subsidies.
"It is not enough to make this meeting a true success. But it is enough to save it from failure."
The Hong Kong agreement on export subsidies did not impact the EU's much-criticized Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) program of domestic subsidies, which accounts for 40 percent of the trading bloc's spending.
The United States also welcomed the text, saying it had come to Hong Kong to build a solid platform to move forward global trade liberalization and had achieved the goal.