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Nation urged to help restart trade talks
( 2003-11-10 15:42) (chinadaily.com.cn/agencies)

The head of the World Trade Organisation called on China on Monday to use its growing economic clout to help jump-start stalled world free trade talks.

WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi delivers a speech at the WTO China Forum Beijing Monday, Nov. 10, 2003. [Reuters]

Geneva-based WTO chief Supachai Panitchpakdi said the world's fifth-largest trading power could help bridge differences between developing and developed countries that precipitated a breakdown in crucial negotiations in September in Cancun, Mexico.

Those talks crumbled as rich nations like the United States and Japan faced off against a bloc of developing countries over a raft of issues such as agricultural subsidies and corruption.

"More than ever we need China to join in with other members to put the round back on track to move it forward," Supachai told an audience of Chinese and WTO officials in Beijing.

"At the time when the WTO faces an impasse, we need China to use its influence, to be a bridge between developed and developing member countries," Supachai said.

Some observers have labelled Cancun a catastrophe, a view Supachai said was "inappropriate".

Supachai said he had been talking to various trade officials since Cancun to try to revive negotiations ahead of the December 15 deadline to set an agenda for next year.

The next round of ministerial level talks on what is known as the Doha Development Agenda would take place in Hong Kong but a date had not been set, forum delegates said.

Chinese Deputy Commerce Minister Yu Guangzhou said Cancun's failure to agree on a roadmap for the final phase of negotiations was due to failure to reflect the needs of developing countries, which made up 85 per cent of WTO membership.

Yu called on all WTO members, especially major developing nations, to take concrete action to bring talks back on track.

"It is the responsibility of all WTO members to demonstrate necessary flexibility to bridge the differences and narrow the gaps of specific agenda items to achieve a win-win situation at an early date," Yu said.

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