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WTO resists trade talks delay

HONG KONG, China -- The World Trade Organization (WTO) has resisted calls by developing countries to postpone the next round of negotiations in Quatar in November.

WTO Director-General Mike Moore said developing countries could not afford a delay in negotiations, stressing that their hope for economic recovery lies in multilateral trade.

"I do not believe the round should be postponed. Were we to postpone the launch of a round, when would be pick it up again?" he said.

"Our poorest and most disenfranchised member nations cannot wait. Their best hope is the multilateral system," Moore stressed.

Developing countries have expressed a preference to defer the talks rather than discuss issues which they consider to be too "broad."

They were referring to the insistence of rich countries to include "non-trade topics" such as labor concerns and environmental protection in the upcoming talks.

Poor countries worry about being overloaded with obligations that could hold back their economic growth.

But Moore stressed that a new round brings huge benefits to all parts of the globe, claiming that $1.9 trillion would be added to the world economy if trade barriers were removed.

He further said that $613 billion would be added to the world economy if trade barriers were cut by a third.

"In my view, the best way you can insure that the weakest and most vulnerable nations achieve their aims in trade negotiations is through a round (of talks)."

Non-trade topics

Moore noted that environmental activities are already the subject of discussion in the WTO.

He added that member governments are able thrash out a range of issues relating to the cross section of trade and environmental matters through a Committee on Trade and Environment.

Labor concerns, however, are left out from the negotiations noting that the majority of WTO's member governments believe that labor issues are best discussed in the International Labor Organization.

"While North American and European governments are deeply committed to the promotion of core labor priniciples, and while their concerns are totally valid, developing country governments believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that the labour issue is a smokescreen for protectionism," he said.

He further noted that considering the issues as broad would put up barriers.

"How broad that round is and how many issues are the subject of negotiations are questions that member governments must answer for themselves."

"It does seem to me though that we need to have enough issues on the table so that everyone feels there is something in the negotiations for them," Moore said.

The talks have already been delayed once. They were due to be held in Seattle in 1999, but a violent riot prevented the talks to push through as expected.

The 140 WTO members also failed to agree on which areas should be part of the discussions.

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