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US blocks WTO efforts

Friday, November 24, 2017

GENEVA - The United States on Wednesday blocked efforts by the World Trade Organization to draft a declaration for ministers to agree on next month, a move that reflects President Donald Trump's view that the WTO does not give his country a fair deal.

Mr Trump has been highly critical of the international trade system and of countries such as China and Germany that have built up large trade surpluses while the US has a large deficit.

Trade ministers from around the world are due in Buenos Aires next month for the WTO's top-level meeting, which happens every two years.

Organisers had hoped for a show of unity in a "ministerial declaration" backed by all 164 WTO members.

But US officials told a closed-door preparatory meeting that they could not agree on sections of the text supporting the "centrality of the multilateral trading system" and the need to support "development".

They declined to comment as they left the meeting. Others said it was no surprise but still a setback.

"No deal," one diplomat said as she left the meeting.

"They are going a bit beyond what a lot of the membership are going to be able to accept," another said.

"Members tried their best. There was a good faith effort made," WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said.

"The facilitators made progress in some areas but not enough. This is an issue that will now be taken up by ministers in Buenos Aires."

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