Compromise on Trade Rules Introduced; WTO Hopes for Deal after Failed Negotiations

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Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The World Trade Organization, with time running out, tried to revive troubled negotiations yesterday with a new compromise outline for global trade rules.

"We still have some way to go before reaching consensus on the text overall, but with hard work and good will, this should be possible," Shotaro Oshima, chairman of the WTO's governing council, and Supachai Panitchpakdi, WTO director-general, said in a letter to the body's 147 member countries.

An agreement that substantially lowers trade barriers for industrial and agricultural goods would boost world economies by $520 billion and lift about 144 million people out of poverty in the next 12 years, according to a study by the World Bank.

But talks collapsed in September when nations fought over rules that would force poor countries to rewrite some laws, such as government contracting regulations and rules on monopolies, and rich countries to abandon some lavish agricultural subsidies.

The breakup was a spectacular failure that pitted developing countries, led by Brazil and India, against the United States, European Union and other wealthier economies.

Many of the same trade ministers who fought to a standstill during the September talks in Cancun, Mexico, will reconvene later this month in Geneva. The meeting is seen as a last attempt to patch together a general agreement that, although it leaves many questions unresolved, at least would allow negotiations to continue.

The end-of-month meeting is likely to be the last high-level gathering before U. …