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Canada's agriculture minister says time running short on reaching new WTO deal

Canada's agriculture minister says time is running short for reaching a new World Trade Organization agreement that would improve the global economy.

Speaking from a WTO conference in Indonesia, Gerry Ritz says delegations worked through the night in the hope of reaching a compromise on unified trade rules that all countries can agree to.

Ritz says the sticking point is that a number of countries, led by India, want more flexibility to subsidize their farmers.

He says India has "dug in its heels," but there is still time for more talks.

Ritz says Canada supports the need for a country to have food security, but not in a way that would distort trade.

He says Canadians won't notice any immediate negative consequences if a deal isn't reached.

"The world isn't going to collapse overnight because of this. We want to see talks continue and move forward," Ritz said from Bali Thursday.

"But at the end of the day we are working with like-minded countries to make sure the rules are clearly defined, that people adhere to those rules and if they don't, there is a mechanism to take them to task."

Canada wants to increase market access for Canadian products, while still maintaining the supply management system for dairy and poultry.

The goal of the talks is to come up with unified rules for the 159 member economies of the WTO. Negotiations have been ongoing since 2001.

The rules would cover lowering import taxes on some goods, limiting subsidies for farm produce and creating one standard for customs procedures that would make it easier for goods to move across borders.

The idea is that if all countries play by the same trade rules, then all countries, rich or poor, would benefit.

With fewer trade barriers, goods and services of all types would be more affordable, creating more jobs and business opportunities.

The WTO estimates that easing customs barriers would increase total world trade to $23 trillion from its current estimate of $22 trillion.

— With files from Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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