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WTO risks irrelevancy

Staff writer |
World Trade Organization members must agree in December on a package of measures to liberalize trade or risk becoming irrelevant after 12 years of failed talks, the new head of the world trade body warned.

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"The perception in the world is we have forgotten how to negotiate," WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said, in Geneva, in his first speech to the WTO's full membership since taking office on September 1.

"Our failure to address this paralysis casts a shadow which goes well beyond the negotiating arm, and it covers every other part of our work. It is essential that we breathe new life into negotiations. We must send a clear and unequivocal message to the world that the WTO can deliver multilateral trade deals," Mr. Azevedo said.

Azevedo is the first Latin American to head the organization and comes from a country that was frequently at loggerheads with the United States in the Doha round of world trade talks.

Talks were launched in 2001 and have never been brought to a close because of disagreements over how much the U.S. and EU should cut farm subsidies and tariffs in exchange for other countries opening up their agricultural, manufacturing and services markets.


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