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Fri, Jun 03, 2005 - Page 12 News List

WTO talks require more political will

AP , JEJU, SOUTH KOREA

A year-end summit in Hong Kong will be crucial for completing a much-delayed WTO treaty, the head of the agency said yesterday, calling on Pacific rim trade officials to put their political weight behind the negotiations.

"We won't be able to complete the round by 2006" without agreements in Hong Kong, Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi told reporters on the resort island of Jeju, where trade officials from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum are meeting.

"If we miss the chance of completing the round by 2006, it will be very difficult to complete the round in the foreseeable future," Supachai said.

The current round of treaty talks -- launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001 -- aims to slash subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to global commerce, and to use trade to help poor nations. The original plan was to create a new global trade treaty by the end of last year, but a WTO conference in 2003 collapsed amid bickering over investment rules between rich and poor members, as well as differences on agriculture.

Talks have yet to regain their momentum and EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson warned Tuesday that too little progress was being made.

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