G20 leaders pledge quick action

World leaders promised to work as "quickly as possible" to conclude long-running world trade talks.

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PITTSBURGH // World leaders promised to work as "quickly as possible" to conclude long-running world trade talks and have their top trade officials hold a stock-taking session by early next year, a draft G20 document said today. "We remain committed to further trade liberalisation. We are determined to seek an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Doha development round in 2010," the leaders said in the draft communique obtained by Reuters. Leaders of the Group of 20, which groups major industrialised and developing countries, were gathered in Pittsburgh for talks aimed at putting the world on a path to more sustainable growth following the worst economic downturn in decades. The final draft of their communique was due to be issued last night at the end of their two-day meeting. The Doha round, launched in late 2001 with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through trade, is already the longest set of world trade negotiations since the modern rules-based trading system began. After nearly eight years of negotiation, World Trade Organisation members still have not reached agreement on core formulae, known in trade jargon as "modalities", for cutting agricultural and industrial tariffs and reducing trade-distorting farm subsidies. "We note that in order to conclude the negotiations in 2010, closing those gaps should proceed as quickly as possible," the leaders said in the draft text. The language reflects a compromise between the US, which was wary of setting a target to reach a deal on modalities this year, and other countries, led by the European Union, Brazil and Australia, pushing for swift progress. The G20 leaders also said it was "imperative we stand together to fight against protectionism", repeating a pledge they made in two previous meetings and that critics say has been too often ignored in the past year. US president Barack Obama's decision this month to slap a 35 per cent tariff on tyre imports from China is one of the most recent examples singled out by such critics. US officials have defended the action as legal under a "safeguard" provision that Beijing accepted as a term of its entry into the WTO in 2001. * Reuters