Hong Kong official: Failed WTO summit would be "disastrous"
Updated: 2005-11-11 17:07
Hong Kong's top trade negotiator warned Friday that if the World Trade
Organization's ministerial meeting next month fails, it would be a disaster
for small nations and the global trading system.
John Tsang spoke as hopes for an ambitious meeting in Hong Kong were quickly
fading amid squabbles over agricultural subsidies. Talks held earlier this week
in Europe failed to produce agreements that many hoped would pave the way for a
successful year-end summit in Hong Kong.
Tsang noted that the last WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico,
collapsed in 2003 amid bickering and acrimony _ and warned that that must not
happen again at the December 13-18 summit here.
"If we were to have two failed ministerials in the row, the whole
multilateral system would lose its credibility and that would be disastrous for
the world because the world is mainly composed of small members," Tsang said at
Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club.
He added that if the WTO loses its authority, small countries would not have
a forum in which they could deal with bigger countries as equals. The 148-member
WTO sets rules for global trade and helps members resolve trade disputes.
"The small members will be at a disadvantage if they have to deal with big
countries one on one. Only in a multilateral system would you be on an equal
footing with everyone else," said Tsang, secretary for commerce, industry and
Many hoped the Hong Kong meeting would resolve many of the issues that have
been blocking the Doha round of trade talks _ named for the Qatari capital where
it was launched in 2001. The talks have already fallen well behind their
original deadline of December 2004.
Tsang said that next month's meeting "is an important springboard to get us
to the final stretch" of the current round of talks.
He added, "My sense is that the 148 members are very keen to have an
agreement, but they're not sure how much they want to pay for