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WTO summit on free global market ends without a deal

After seven years of on-again, off-again negotiations, world trade talks collapsed Tuesday, ending hopes of a deal to free up global markets, cut farm subsidies and shore up the international trading system.

After nine days of high-level talks here, discussions reached an impasse when the U.S., India and China failed to compromise over measures to protect farmers in poor countries.

Despite exhaustive efforts, Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization, failed to bridge differences between a group of newly confident developing nations and established Western economic powers. In the end, too few of the real power brokers proved committed enough to make compromises necessary to deliver a deal.

Supporters of the so-called Doha round of talks, begun in 2001, say a deal would have been a bulwark against rising protectionist sentiments that are now likely to spread as economic growth falters in much of the world.

The failure also delivers a blow to the credibility of the trade organization, which sets the rules of international commerce, and it could set back efforts to work out other complex agreements involving many nations, including those intended to reduce the threat of global warming.

It is a big setback, particularly to the hopes of developing countries like Brazil and India, and the poor nations of Africa, which were counting on gaining greater access to consumers in the United States, Europe and Japan for their farm goods and products of their basic industries.

Economists and trade experts predicted that negotiators, having gotten this close, might not find the conditions for a deal among the 153 members of the trade organization for years, if ever again.

Talks foundered on the right of India and other developing nations to protect sensitive agricultural products from competition in the event of a surge of imports.

The U.S. argued that such protection, which is not permitted now, would involve moving backward on current world trade commitments.

Susan Schwab, the U.S. trade representative, said that success had been “so close” Friday. “The U.S. commitments remain on the table, awaiting reciprocal responses,” she said.

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