Geneva: World economic and trade growth could slow this year as a result of shaky markets and large macroeconomic imbalances, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said in its 2007 annual report released on Tuesday.

“Risks in financial and property markets and large trade imbalances in goods and services mean increased uncertainty in 2007 and raise the prospect of weaker economic and trade expansion in the coming year," the report said.

“The consensus among forecasters of around 3% global economic growth in 2007 could slow merchandise trade growth to about 6%, compared with 8% in

Still hopeful about Doha: WTO director general Pascal Lamy.

WTO director general Pascal Lamy said wrapping up a new global trade accord, named after the Qatari capital, Doha, where the talks were launched in 2001, was the organization’s main challenge for the rest of this year.

“A successful Doha agreement would send a much-needed message of confidence to governments, economic agents and to the public," Lamy said. “It would show that we remain committed to open markets and multilateral rules, and that the foundations of the global economy are reinforced."

WTO’s 151 member states have agreed to renew the nearly six-year-old negotiations over lowering global trade barriers in September, with a goal of securing the nuts and bolts of a deal by the end of 2007.

Lamy has warned that without a breakthrough soon, the Doha drive could be put on ice for years or until countries muster the political will to complete it.

He said negotiators needed to be ready to work hard when the talks resume next month.

“If we are to conclude these negotiations in the near future, as the WTO members have pledged to do, we will need to make significant progress as soon as possible in the crucial areas of agriculture subsidies, tariffs on agriculture and industrial products," he added.

WTO is working with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and various United Nations and regional development bodies to determine how to ensure poor countries benefit from a new “aid for trade" initiative, the annual report said.

“The WTO will provide the platform for monitoring and regularly reviewing whether aid for trade is being adequately funded and that it is delivering the expected results," the report stated.

The first WTO global monitoring conference on the Aid for trade initiative will be held on 20-21 November in Geneva.