2011 'make or break year' for WTO Doha talks
World leaders on Friday called for the rapid conclusion of a global free trade deal, saying this would amount to a cost-free stimulus for the economy.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told the Davos gathering of business and political elite: "This is a stimulus that doesn't cost money, so it's a stimulus that we need."
Sharing the same panel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel added: "The cheapest way to boost our competitiveness... is free trade."
Launched in the Qatari capital a decade ago, the Doha Round of talks have foundered amid disagreements between developed and developing nations on cuts to be imposed on tariffs of industrial goods and agriculture subsidies.
Cameron made a strong push for negotiators to move towards a deal this year before the next annual Davos meeting, saying: "If we come back and we're still talking about it, then I think that would be hopeless."
"I do believe that this can be done. If everyone puts a bit more on the table and make the deal a bit bigger then this can happen. This has to be the year in which it happens, we cannot go on after a decade with another year."
"So there is no 'later' as far as I'm concerned. No one should hold anything back for future negotiations."
The British PM said earlier in a separate session that 2011 is a "make or break year" on concluding the WTO Doha Round.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono meanwhile declared that "for leaders... failure is not an option." It is giving clear instructions to negotiators."
Merkel declared: "We are literally metres away from the finishing line, but if we do not reach this finishing line, decades will go by without this opportunity ever offering itself again."
Despite the determined language, none of the political leaders made any concrete offers at Davos to push the deal forward.
Separately, Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota also called for a push towards an agreement. However, he took a more cautious tone about prospects.
"We're here to see if there is progress, the intention is to try to take the round from the basis of the progress already made, but I have no certainties," he said.
He and other top trade negotiators from India, China, Brazil, Australia and the United States were to meet at an informal session organised by the European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht later Friday to restart talks.
The parties are also expected to meet on Saturday in a session organised annually by the Swiss government on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
© 2011 AFP