A deal to boost international trade is closer to consensus than it has been for months, a source close to the World Trade Organization (WTO) said Wednesday.
"The chances of reaching an agreement are much greater today than six months or a year ago," said the source, referring to trade facilitation talks known as the Doha Round.
The free trade deal, a feature of the WTO agenda since the organisation opened its doors in 1995, has never been sealed as rich and emerging nations failed to bridge gaps over the level of cuts to industrial goods tariffs and farm subsidies.
Neither the bigger nor the smaller economies have so far been able to reach agreement on what concessions they should make and the slowdown in the global economy has compounded challenges in the complex negotiations.
In a speech to the WTO General Council Wednesday, the organisation's chief Pascal Lamy said he had seen signs of "momentum" and called for member nations to redouble their efforts to tie up a free trade deal.
"We need a strong and renewed commitment to revitalise the multilateral trading system to increase demand and to restore economic certainty at a time when it is badly needed," he told the WTO executive.
"We must not indulge in trade restrictive practices."
Despite a desire by many WTO delegations "to be more active on the negotiating front from the autumn", Lamy cautioned he was not "under any illusion" the factors that have shaped the impasse have changed much.
"We need to explore any and all options, small as they may be, for incremental progress on the negotiating agenda."
Previously, Lamy said that an agreement along the lines discussed in Geneva could reduce global trade costs by 10 percent.
"Every extra day required to ready goods for import or export decreases trade by around four percent," he told the World Customs Organization in Brussels in 2011.
Meanwhile, United States ambassador to the WTO, Michael Punke, described the ongoing negotiations as making "steady progress", adding that he remained "very hopeful" about finding a broad multilateral consensus.
Punke's comments came after a diplomatic source close to the European Union indicated Monday that there was a real chance of reaching an agreement.
Before an agreement is reached, around 500 amendments need to be made by member countries, Punke said. But problems could be ironed out quickly, another EU source indicated.
During Wednesday's meeting of the General Council, Brazil stated that the draft agreement lacked balance, a sentiment echoed by Lesotho on behalf of African nations.
For its part, Pakistan pointed to positive change at the WTO, in reference to the state of the trade liberalisation talks, as well as the improved accession criteria for countries looking to join the organisation.