A new round of global trade negotiations is
moving closer to being launched, as the six-day ministerial meeting in Doha
draws to a close.
The European Union has agreed to a revised
draft proposal of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
"I am authorized as the European Union
negotiator to say yes to the text which has been tabled," said EU Trade
Commissioner Pascal Lamy.
Negotiators had worked through the night to
find an acceptable draft agreement and overcome big remaining differences,
after the trade talks overran their scheduled conclusion.
The EU emerged as a big winner overnight,
after making some concessions on agriculture.
In return for the EU's concessions,
negotiators agreed to stronger language on trade and the environment,
something very important to European public opinion.
They also ensured that two other new areas,
investment and competition policy, would be included in future trade deals.
But all 142 countries need to agree to the
deal before the new trade round is launched.
Developing countries have already made some
gains in the negotiations - but many are still concerned by the ambitious
scope of the plans.
India is thought to be the most reluctant
country to agree to the deal.
However, there are rumours that India will
go ahead and sign the deal because it does not want to be the country that
scuppers the talks.
The trade negotiators earlier agreed a deal
to help developing countries gain access to cheap medicines by easing patent
laws should there be a health emergency.
World leaders have set high hopes on an
agreement, in order to revive confidence in the world trading system as the
world faces an economic slowdown.
And while the breakthrough with the EU is
seen as one of the last remaining hurdles to overcome, other countries can
still veto the deal at the last moment.
The final text of the agreement is still
being thrashed out just hours before many delegates are due to be boarding
planes to return home.
Debates were continuing among delegates at
the luxury Sheraton resort on the Gulf coast, even as security personnel and
hotel workers began to dismantle the conference offices.
Some small countries were trying to gain
further concessions from the EU before agreeing to a deal, especially on the
import of tuna.
Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 11:17 GMT