• Officials still negotiating wording of final document
  • Special safeguard mechanism one of oustanding issues in talks

Negotiators at the World Trade Organization’s 10th ministerial conference in Nairobi remained in discussions 24 hours after a deadline passed as they seek to reach an agreement that could eliminate agricultural subsidies.

“Progress is being made,” Keith Rockwell, spokesman for the trade body, told reporters in the Kenyan capital on Saturday. “They hope, very quickly, to have the outstanding issues resolved and they will then give the text to the members and they will have a few hours to review.”

One of the outstanding issues is special safeguard mechanisms, he said. That would allow developing countries to raise tariffs temporarily to deal with a surge in import or falling prices.

Talks reached an impasse after a draft agriculture text was released on Dec. 17, extending the four-day meeting through the scheduled conclusion at noon in Nairobi on Friday. The document proposes, among others, that direct farming subsidies be phased out in developed and developing countries.

“It’s been 48 hours of straight negotiations,” Rockwell said.

Earlier in the week, trade leaders announced the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, which will cut tariffs on $1.3 trillion worth of IT products, and agreed to explore ending subsidies that lead to over-fishing in parts of the world.

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