GENEVA (AP) -- A wide-ranging deal to liberalize global commerce can still be achieved this year if leaders agree to make political compromises, a senior U.S. trade official said Friday.
The state of negotiations is reason to believe that the World Trade Organization's 152 members can reach an agreement on the so-called Doha Round, said Peter Allgeier, the U.S. ambassador to the WTO in Geneva.
''We are still concentrating on completing a successful round this year, and I actually think we can do it, given the nature of discussions we are having and the kinds of issues that are out there,'' Allgeier said.
The Doha Round, launched in Qatar's capital almost seven years ago, centers around a battle between rich countries and major developing nations over farm subsidies and tariffs on goods and services.
''It's coming down to some very basic political decisions,'' Allgeier said, adding that if emerging trade powers such as Brazil, Argentina and South Africa expect the United States to cut its farm subsidies, then they will have to be forthcoming on nonagricultural tariffs.
Skeptics who say that any U.S. offer of cutting farm payments will fail to pass a Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress were wrong, he said.
Last week Brazil, India and other developing countries slammed the new U.S. farm bill as a major obstacle to a successful global trade deal. The criticism mirrored earlier comments by WTO chief Pascal Lamy who said the US$290 billion (euro189 billion) package sent a ''bad signal'' to the world while the Doha talks continue.
''If we have a package that has enough in it for us, we go back to the Congress and we change the farm bill,'' Allgeier said.
''If we are able to conclude the negotiations this year, it will be very difficult for any Congress to turn their backs on an agreement that has been negotiated with 152 of our very best friends,'' he said in an appearance before an American business group in Geneva.
The North American Free Trade Agreement and a previous WTO round had both been negotiated by a Republican U.S. administration and passed with a Democratic majority in Congress, he added.
U.S. President George W. Bush, who leaves office in January, has expressed strong support for a Doha deal.