Geneva: World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiators are edging closer to a global accord and the details of a final deal “could be agreed within weeks," European Union (EU) trade commissioner Catherine Ashton said.

Speaking after a meeting with US trade representative Susan Schwab in Brussels, Ashton said leaders from the Group of Twenty, or G20, gathering in Washington this weekend must send a “clear signal" to negotiators to clinch a trade agreement. In the meantime, the US and the EU “will continue to provide leadership to maintain the openness that has brought growth and prosperity in the past," she said.

Clear signal? EU commissioner for trade Catherine Ashton. Thierry Charlier / AP

“At this critical time, it is all the more important that we not only avoid retrenchment in market opening, but move ahead with an ambitious and balanced Doha Round that creates new trade flows and generates economic opportunities worldwide," Schwab said in a statement.

Leaders from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and German chancellor Angela Merkel to European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet and Australian treasurer Wayne Swan have said a WTO agreement could strengthen economic growth in the future and counter the current global slowdown.

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