Doha trade deal still possible: WTO chief

Pretoria: The Doha round of world trade talks could still be concluded by year's end, the head of the World Trade Organisation Pascal Lamy said, despite a European warning of a "high risk of failure.' "We are nearing the end game. Whether it's a success or failure I can't say, but it's doable,' WTO director general Pascal Lamy said after meeting South African President Thabo Mbeki. The talks, launched in the Qatari capital in 2001 and aimed at liberalising world trade, were due to be completed by 2004, but have floundered on disagreements between developed and emerging economies. The WTO is now hoping that a deal might be signed by its 151 members by the end of 2008. "There is much more on the table than last year,' Lamy said in Pretoria. The European Union trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said on that he feared Doha was now "facing a high risk of failure, the first failure ever for a multilateral trade round. "That would not be a good signal for the global economy which needs the confidence boost and the insurance against protectionism,' he said. But Lamy said doubts were normal at this point in the process. "We are at a crunch-time .. It's not surprising that positions stiffen,' he said. Negotiations have stalled with poorer nations criticizing agricultural subsidies in the developed nations, and the richer economies arguing for lower tariff barriers for industrial products and services. Lamy compared the process with landing a cargo plane, saying "we know now on agriculture which portion of the tarmac we will land on. It is still a little more risky in industry ... and services are more complex.' AFP