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WTO chief joins Asia Pacific drive to rescue trade talks
Cat : International Conferences
Date : 2006-11-15 10:03:23                      Reader : 243
the most to be listened to . They are the victims in a way that poor will be more poorer, and rich more richer with current situation of WTO.

Associated France Press (AFP) 15/11/2006

WTO chief joins Asia Pacific drive to rescue trade talks


by Martin Abbugao
HANOI (AFP) - World Trade Organisation director Pascal Lamy joined Asia-Pacific ministers here to bolster the drive to salvage global trade talks and avert the "grave consequences" of collapse.

Lamy hunkered down with foreign and trade ministers at a swank, newly built convention centre in Vietnam's capital Hanoi amid warnings that the so-called Doha round of WTO talks was on life support.

The meeting at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC) forum has been billed as a "retreat", which in regional parlance means there should be plenty of opportunity for candid discussions.

"The Doha round is in the balance ... It is, if you like, on a life support system," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said here.

A draft of the joint communique to be issued by the US, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and other Asian and Pacific heads of government this weekend warns of "gave consequences" if the Doha round expires in intensive care.

"We should therefore spare no efforts to break the current deadlock and achieve an ambitious and overall balanced outcome of the round with the development dimension at its core," said the communique obtained by AFP.

The leaders, who meet Saturday and Sunday, are also expected to release a separate statement calling for an immediate resumption of the Doha talks, which are aimed at tearing down trade barriers and encouraging growth in developing nations.

APEC's 21 nations account for 60 percent of global economic output and more than half of world trade, and issuing a separate statement is seen as a way of underlining their concern at the state of negotiations.

Diplomatic sources said Lamy and the ministers would discuss the wording Wednesday.

Senior officials working on the text were sent back to the drafting board after China urged key players such as the United States and European Union to lead the way by making concessions, an Asian diplomat told AFP.

"There was agreement that the Doha round should resume immediately," he said. "The point of contention was that developing countries, mainly China, want the big powers to take the lead in making concessions and others will follow."

A senior US delegate said he was unaware of the Chinese call, adding that "all of the discussions we have had to date really just focussed on trying to make sure that everyone can do as much as they can in order to restart the round."

"We look for a strong stand-alone statement out of APEC on this issue. We think it's an extremely high priority for us," said the official, who did not wish to be named.

The Doha round began in the Qatari capital at the end of 2001, aiming to reduce subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to commerce and raising living standards in developing countries.

But the talks have been dogged by disputes between rich and poor nations, as well as among wealthy players, over what concessions are required.

A compromise among trade heavyweights is seen as the key to unlocking the round.

Some analysts have said that a free trade area spanning the Pacific Ocean from China to Chile -- an idea being pushed by the United States -- could be an alternative if the Doha round fails.

Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson said in Hanoi that while the WTO was the best forum for global trade, "the issue is can we reignite and bring back to life the Doha round or if we try and fail, what's plan B.

"For us, plan B could well be an Asia-Pacific free trade area."

But the US trade official here said it was only one of a number of options. "We're not talking about a plan B, we're talking about getting the Doha round started," he insisted.

"Any other types of avenues of trade and investment liberalisation we believe can proceed in parallel."

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