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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WTO Nations Agree To Discuss Farm Trade

GENEVA -- The head of the World Trade Organization on Monday declared the body "back in business" after its 135 member countries agreed to start talks on free trade in farm products and services.

"We have made progress on all fronts," WTO director general Mike Moore said at a news conference after the year's first session of the WTO's ruling General Council.

"The atmosphere is very good. We have set up a structure for negotiations. ... The WTO is back in business," Moore said, speaking two months after a ministerial meeting of the organization collapsed in acrimony in Seattle.

The Seattle gathering had been expected to launch a global round of liberalization negotiations covering all aspects of international trade. But disputes there were so intense many feared they might prevent the start of fresh talks even on agriculture and services, written into the WTO's agenda in 1994.

The negotiations on services - areas like banking, insurance and travel - will begin at the end of February.

They are widely expected to advance without major problems, although developing countries want to move toward accord on free movement of workers between poor and rich states.