World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy opened an informal ministerial meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday saying that this meeting marks the start of establishing modalities for agriculture that will be a big step toward completing the Doha Round of global trade talks before the end of the year.
"We have a clear objective before us but the road to it is going to require a lot of effort from all of us," Lamy said. "We are at the beginning of an uphill journey, which will take us a few days. But I remain convinced that with patience and determination we will be able to get to our collective objective."
Senior officials have been working for the past several days on clarifying some of the issues that will be discussed during this week's meetings. Lamy said that establishing modalities will not end negotiations on those issues, but will accelerate negotiations in other areas.
"I can think of no stronger spur for our action than the threats which are facing the world economy across several fronts, including rises in food prices and energy prices and financial market turbulences," Lamy said. "There is widespread recognition that a balanced outcome of the Doha Round could in these circumstances provide a strong push to stimulate economic growth, providing better prospects for development and ensuring a stable and more predictable trading system. We must not let this opportunity slip."