WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It may take another world economic downturn to persuade everyone, but there is still a chance the long-running Doha round of world trade talks can be completed, a former WTO head said on Friday.
"I am mildly optimistic if the adults focus we can get there," said Mike Moore, a former New Zealand prime minister who was director general of the the World Trade Organization from 1999 to 2002.
Moore said he believes the current global economic recovery will be followed by another downturn.
At that point, leaders will realize a Doha deal is one of the best options they have for stimulating the global economy, Moore said in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Leaders of Group of 20 major economies recently reaffirmed their intent to finish the Doha talks, which began in November 2001 and are now the longest-running global trade negotiations in history.
They also called on G20 trade ministers to hold a meeting by early next year to take stock of where things stand. No date for that meeting has been set yet.
Moore, who was in Washington to lobby for a free trade pact between the United States and New Zealand, said he believed the White House would turn more attention to Doha after finishing work on health care reform and climate legislation.
But on another trade issue, Moore said he was "not at all optimistic" Russia would join the WTO any time soon.
Moore said he feared in "20 years we'll look back and regret our failure to navigate Russia into the WTO."
Russia is the largest economy still outside the WTO, as well as the only member of the G20 not in the world trade body. It has been negotiating to join since the 1990s.
Earlier this year, Russia threw its bid into confusion by announcing it would now only join as part of a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus.
"I think it is very dangerous (for Russia to be out of the WTO). Russia is not a normal country," Moore said.
WTO members should give countries such as Russia "a lot more space" in terms of how long it expects them to phase in their trade commitments, he said.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Anthony Boadle)