Talks on Global Free-Trade Deal Collapse in Geneva

GENEVA (AP) -

Negotiators came close but failed Tuesday to clinch a deal that could have helped boost the world economy by $1 trillion a year and cleared the way for a broader global agreement.

Diplomats from the World Trade Organization had been trying to forge an agreement before a trade ministers’ meeting next week in Bali, Indonesia. Achieving a deal in Bali is seen as a final effort to revive a broader 12-year effort to ease global trade rules.

The mini-deal discussed in Geneva had been intended, in part, to reduce delays and inefficiencies at national borders. Making it easier to move goods across borders could boost the global economy by nearly $1 trillion a year and support 21 million jobs, according to a report co-written by Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow in international trade at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Individual countries still seek agreements among themselves. But experts say the failure to reach a global deal leaves poorer countries worse off.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke expressed “a great deal of sadness” over the failure in Geneva.

“We’re worried — alongside so many in this room — that a once-in-a-generation opportunity may have slipped our grasp,” Punke said. Schott said he’s hopeful that negotiators will salvage the deal.

“If this small test can’t be passed, there’s very little reason for confidence” that negotiators will ever reach the broader agreement, Schott said.