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EU Trade Chief: Doha Deal Possible Within Weeks

A final deal on the long-stalled Doha Round of global trade talks could be reached within weeks, the European Union (EU) trade chief said on Tuesday.

"With leadership and determination, a Doha deal is within our grasp as the details of a final agreement could be agreed within weeks," EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said after meeting with US trade representative Susan Schwab.

Ashton urged leaders of the world's 20 economic powers to "send a clear signal to negotiators to achieve this objective" when they meet in Washington this weekend to seek responses to the worldwide financial crisis and economic slowdown.

Schwab said governments should refrain from protectionist measures in the face of the current difficulties.

"At this critical time, it is all the more important that we not only avoid retrenchment in market opening, but also move ahead with an ambitious and balanced Doha Round that creates new trade flows and generates economic opportunities worldwide," she said.

The Doha Round trade talks, which was started in 2001, have been deadlocked in the past seven years. A key effort to revive the round at the end of July failed again due to US opposition to a special safeguard mechanism for agricultural products of developing countries.

Ashton, who succeeded Peter Mandelson as EU trade commissioner one month ago, had said she would continue to put the conclusion of Doha Round at the core of the EU trade policy and urge the United States to play its role in reviving the talks.

Ashton paid her first official out-of-EU visit to Geneva, where the World Trade Organization (WTO) is located.

(Xinhua News Agency November 12, 2008)

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