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EU Trade Chief Hopeful Of Doha Breakthrough

New negotiating text for agricultural and industrial goods expected to be presented next week could pave the way for a new round of high-level talks to find a final compromise.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Union's trade chief, Peter Mandelson, said Tuesday he remains hopeful that a breakthrough in world trade talks is still possible in the coming weeks.

The EU trade commissioner told reporters he expected a new negotiating text for agricultural and industrial goods to be presented to World Trade Organization countries next week at WTO headquarters in Geneva.

The presentation of new texts could pave the way for a new round of high-level talks to find a final compromise, he said.

''These texts will not solve all our problems but it will pave the way for us to do so,'' Mandelson said.

Those two trade sectors have been among the most contentious and divisive during the drawn-out trade talks, which started seven years ago in the Qatari capital of Doha. The talks are aimed at boosting international trade to lift millions worldwide out of poverty, but trade battles between rich Western countries and developing nations have held up a deal.

Mandelson said he would like to see senior level talks resume in Geneva shortly ''to complete the bulk of the remaining negotiations'' on a new global trade pact.

He said his aim was still to ensure a new deal is completed by the end of this year.

''We need to head for a ministerial (meeting) in May or June. ... We need to get the bulk of the work done under (U.S.) President Bush's watch, and that means this year,'' Mandelson said.

The EU is keen to wrap up a deal under the current U.S. administration and before the EU's executive commission's term ends in 2009. Both changes in administration could force the WTO to start negotiations from scratch.

Although all 151 WTO members have to agree on a deal, the biggest differences are between rich countries wanting to protect their farming and manufacturing industries, and big developing nations such as China, India and Brazil, which want greater access to lucrative markets in Europe and North America.

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