Top negotiators from the world's largest trading powers will meet next week to push for a global trade accord, a signal that political momentum may be building for completion of the stalled talks.
European Commission spokesman John Clancy said on Monday that the meeting, the first at such a high level since talks at the World Trade Organization broke down in 2008, would take place on January 28 during a conference in Switzerland.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has invited trade ministers from Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan and the United States to meet informally on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss the way ahead for the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) talks, Clancy said.
The talks would occur separately from a planned informal trade session at the World Economic Forum, and would be more substantive, he said.
WTO chief Pascal Lamy has said 2011 presents a political opportunity to seal a deal. Yet with tensions over trade and currency persisting among powers such the United States and China, a successful outcome of the meeting is uncertain.
It is important to underline that whilst 2011 does present a real opportunity to conclude negotiations, this meeting is just a first step in exploring the way forward and without prejudice to the format of any future meetings, Clancy said.
The Doha round of trade talks was launched in 2001 to help poor countries prosper through trade, and advocates say a deal will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the world economy.
But in the nearly 10 years since their start, the talks have stumbled repeatedly as trading powers clashed over proposals to cut tariffs and subsidies on goods from food to chemicals.
They have been complicated further by a global power shift in the past decade in favor of the emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.
(Reporting by Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck; additional reporting by Jonathan Lynn in Geneva, Editing by Rex Merrifield/David Stamp)