By JOHN HEILPRIN
2014-01-26 03:01 AM
DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) -- Trade ministers from many of the world's biggest economies vowed to broaden a deal to boost global trade Saturday, with the U.S. saying nothing is off-limits for discussion.
At a Swiss-hosted meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, ministers from China, the European Union, Japan, the U.S. and 15 other nations agreed to build on the "positive momentum" of a World Trade Organization summit last December in Bali where the organization's 159 member economies agreed to cut customs red tape.
The ministers agreed to address the most difficult remaining negotiating topics of agriculture, market access and services that eluded an agreement last month in the first WTO deal since the global trade body was formed in 1995, said Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, who hosted the meeting.
He said the world economic powers agreed to "promptly" build on the Bali agreement with "a particular focus on issues important to least developing countries."
The Bali deal could boost global trade by $1 trillion over time, and its centerpiece was an agreement on measures to ease barriers to trade by simplifying customs procedures and making them more transparent.
But it also kept alive hopes of eventually accomplishing the WTO's broader Doha Round of trade negotiations, sometimes known as the development round because of sweeping changes in regulations, taxes and subsidies that would benefit low income countries.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told ministers Saturday that "the WTO's first order of business must be to finish what we started," according to a statement from his office.
"It also means agreeing to a work plan as we seek to identify future opportunities for progress," he told them. "The United States is open-minded and we are willing to consider a discussion on any of the outstanding issues."