Blair welcomes world trade agreement

Tony Blair has welcomed an agreement reached by more than 140 countries giving new momentum to efforts to boost global trade.

Tony Blair has welcomed an agreement reached by more than 140 countries giving new momentum to efforts to boost global trade.

After six days and nights of wrangling, trade ministers at the World Trade Organisation meeting at Doha, in the Gulf state of Qatar, agreed to launch a new series of talks on liberalisation of the world economy.

The WTO’s credibility was badly damaged two years ago, when it failed to reach an agreement of this kind in a summit in Seattle marked by largescale street protests against globalisation.

The new compact paves the way for negotiations to start next year on slashing farm subsidies and industrial tariffs and tearing down other barriers to trade.

Ministers said the ‘‘broad and balanced’’ talks would help lift millions of people out of poverty and give the world economy a boost in the current recessionary conditions.

In a statement issued yesterday by Downing Street, Mr Blair said: ‘‘This is a huge success for the international community.

‘‘The countries of the world, rich and poor, have ironed out their differences to launch a trade round that will make all of us more prosperous.’’

Mr Blair said yesterday’s agreement laid out the framework for a world based on ‘‘cooperation not confrontation’’.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, who represented Britain at the talks, said: ‘‘This historic deal - together with China and Taiwan’s accession to the WTO - gives a badly needed boost to world economic confidence.

‘‘Coming just a day after the advances in Afghanistan, it signals the determination of the world community to fight terror with trade, as well as arms.

‘‘These new world trade negotiations will be good for British consumers, good for our exporters and good for the developing world.’’

Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett added: ‘‘This provides a sound basis for substantive negotiations on further liberalisation of agricultural trade and reduction in subsidies.

‘‘The negotiations should open up trade in agricultural products and see cuts in those farming subsidies that distort trade. This will give consumers more choice and lower prices.’’

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