The European Commission took a bold step this week towards reviving the World Trade Organisation's Doha Round.

The Doha talks on liberalising trade seemed to be doomed after last September's Cancun meeting, with rich and poor nations hopelessly divided over how to open up markets. European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy and Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler have worked hard to re-start the process, and on May 9 they offered three new concessions to the WTO's 147 members: scrapping farm export subsidies, a retreat on new rules on investment and competition, and dropping tariff demands for the least developed countries.

The move may not be enough on its own to win the difficult struggle to complete the Doha Round. But it deserves to be saluted for what it is. From their tight corner, the Commissioners have made a genuine attempt to resuscitate the negotiations.

The proposal to get rid of subsidies is partly a restatement of what was implicit - but never resulted in any explicit commitments - when the Doha Round was launched in November 2001. The Doha negotiating climate was not conducive.

The Commission is offering a gesture of good faith that could open up the talks. And scrapping subsidies is also sound economic policy: they are - as Commissioner Lamy said - some...

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