World Trade Organisation Meets in Geneva
The biggest commercial powers among developed and developing nations have sent trade ministers here. They are trying to agree the extent to which they will reduce barriers to trade in industrial and farm goods.
The underlying objective is to make international commerce easier and cheaper and to boost incomes around the world. If they do reach an agreement in the next few days, it will just be an outline however. It would give an indication of how far the trade liberalisation would go but they would still have a heavy workload in negotiating detailed tariff cuts, product by product.
There are also other contentious areas to settle, notably trade in services such as telecommunications and banking, which the ministers are not even due to discuss in the next few days. Campaign groups have criticised the way these meetings are organised. Much of the business will be done by about 30 key ministers, around a fifth of the membership.
Critics say that works to the disadvantage of those countries not included, especially the smaller developing countries. Trade officials say, however, that groups, such as the least developed or African nations, are represented by ministers who consult the countries on whose behalf they speak.