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WTO deal seen more challenging in 2009

The global economic crisis and a downturn in agricultural prices will make it more difficult to secure a world trade pact in 2009, a top European Commission official said Jan. 6.

“We were very close to a Doha agreement (in 2008) and it is clearly a missed opportunity,” said Jean Luc Demarty, director general of the European Commission’s agricultural and rural development department.

“It will be more difficult in 2009. Protectionist pressure will increase which gives so high a value to what could have been achieved in 2008,” he told reporters after speaking at the annual Oxford Farming Conference.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been seeking a new pact through the Doha round of negotiations to liberalize world trade and cut farm subsidies.

Wayne Jones, head of the agriculture and development division of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), also saw 2008 as a key missed opportunity.

“We really did miss a window there when for a couple of years agriculture prices were high,” he told reporters.

The removal of farm support subsidies is politically more difficult at a time when agriculture prices are low.

“I’m not necessarily very optimistic because I think it will (now) be very difficult for the United States to move (its stance),” Demarty said, adding he believed the U. S., India and to a lesser extent China provided the key obstacles to the agreement of a pact in 2008.

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