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WTO trade talks fail, next stop Bali

Marathon talks in Geneva have failed to draft a first global trade deal. World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Roberto Azevedo says it is now up to trade ministers at their Bali summit next month to resolve differences.

Director-general Azevedo (pictured above) said on Tuesday negotiators for the WTO's 159 member nations "cannot cross the finish line here in Geneva." The process required "political calls" by trade ministers, he said.

The Bali conference, starting on December 3, had previously been billed as the venue for ministers to sign a deal that would streamline customs procedures and speed up global trade.

Such a deal would add 1 trillion dollars (740 billion euros) to the world economy, according to the International Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva Tuesday, Azevedo said at "ambassador level" the talks had become deadlocked over the details.

"The process in Geneva is over," Azevedo said. "If we had two more weeks here in Geneva we would not do it."

Setback for WTO status?

Azevedo warned that without a global trade deal the WTO could end only being seen as a court to resolve trade disputes and no longer as a forum to negotiate trade agreements.

The proposed draft deal would include elements of the so-called Doha round of trade talks, which began in 2001 but which repeatedly failed to culminate in a signed agreement.

Diplomats said one of the main issues they had was whether to pay subsidies for agricultural produce. Poor and emerging nations wanted the US and EU to lower subsidies on their agricultural exports.

One paragraph - nine hours

Late on Sunday, one participant quoted by the news agency Reuters said: "We spent nine hours on one paragraph this morning. Once again, a near-death experience."

Unresolved differences also include an Indian crop stockpiling plan that is exempt from WTO subsidy rule and a challenge to the US economic embargo on Cuba.

Turkey also had concerns about new rules proposed for goods in transit. There was also Central American resistance to demands to stop using customs brokers to handle trade.

ipj/hc (Reuters, AP, dpa)