Business group says Doha round hopes fading

Markets Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chances for a deal this year in long-running world trade talks are fading and likely will remain remote unless world leaders become personally involved, an influential U.S. business group said on Monday.

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"At the beginning of this year there was a new sense of optimism among negotiators in Geneva. That sense of optimism is now quickly fading away," the National Foreign Trade Council said in a statement.

The ongoing impasse in the nearly decade-old talks calls "into question the viability of the Doha round as it currently stands," said the group, whose members include exporters like Boeing <BA.N>, Caterpillar <CAT.N> and Microsoft <MSFT.O>.

The pessimistic assessment is the latest sign of U.S. frustration with the round. It follows a meeting last week of 11 key WTO members, after which U.S. trade officials said there were still wide gaps in negotiation stances among major countries.

The Doha round was launched in 2001 with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through trade. In November, world leaders at the Group of 20 summit expressed hope of finishing the talks by the end of this year, which would be 10 years after they started.

Since the start, the talks have been plagued by disagreements over how much the United States and the EU should cut farm subsidies and tariffs and how much major developing countries should open their markets in exchange.

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Although there has been increased activity, the United States remains frustrated at the unwillingness of Brazil, India and China to make better offers to open their markets to more farm, manufacturing and services imports.

"Last week, several key delegations, particularly from emerging economic powers, dug in even deeper in positions that will prevent the conclusion of a deal," the National Foreign Trade Council said in its statement.

"After nearly a decade of talks, it is past time for world leaders to get personally involved and work together to deliver the political will to reach a strong positive result on the tough issues that are stalling the negotiations," it said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Philip Barbara)