The World Trade Organization (WTO) appealed Saturday for support from Asia-Pacific nations to help clinch a deal on easing global trade constraints at crunch December talks, saying agreement is "clearly within reach".
Roberto Azevedo urged the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping to throw its weight behind the negotiations so that the WTO can agree a deal in time for its ninth ministerial meeting in early December in Indonesia's Bali island.
"Now we are in need of support as much as ever," Azevedo said at a news conference after days of fervent diplomacy, including speaking to foreign and trade ministers at an APEC plenary session to drive home his point.
"We hope that by coming here, I would have given the message to ministers of APEC of where we are and how importantly we need the engagement from capitals and from the ministers themselves."
Differences over the concessions needed have led to clashes notably between China, the European Union, India and the United States, leading to a gridlock in the so-called Doha Round of global trade talks since 2008.
However, the most deadlocked portions of the Doha agenda have been put aside and countries are focusing talks on areas where agreement is possible, namely trade facilitation, agriculture and development issues.
Azevedo said agreement in these areas at the December meeting in Bali could break the gridlock and allow the WTO to discuss other issues.
"We are making progress but not fast enough. We need to be quicker and we need ministers to engage," he said Saturday.
"I'm very positive. What we have before us on the table is doable," he added.
"I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we can reach this. We are clearly within reach."
Although the areas under negotiation are limited, the gains can be enormous, Azevedo said, citing estimates showing that the easing trade constraints could result in savings of up to a trillion dollars worldwide.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman also told reporters in Bali he was hopeful a deal would be reached in December.
"I am pleased to announce that there is a hopeful sign this week of our ability to work collectively together to solve problems and make progress in the WTO," he said.
"If we fail, it will be hard to see how we further that agenda."