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Developing countries call for restart of Doha Round of talks
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A number of developing countries including China, Vietnam and the Philippines yesterday called for a restart of the Doha Round of trade talks to ease the tension brought by recent fluctuations in the world economy.

"The Doha Round is now at a critical juncture ... a failure of it will exacerbate the global economic downturn and give rise to a proliferation of trade protectionism," Qiu Hong, China's assistant minister of commerce, told a panel discussion of the 5th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting in Beijing. It is the first time China has held the biennial meeting since 1996 to boost understanding among peoples.

The world economy is facing new challenges, such as the overall growth slowdown, the volatile dollar, and food and energy price rises, Qiu said.

"At this critical time, major developed countries are morally obliged and able to provide a level-playing field and market opportunities for developing members," she said.

The Doha Round, initiated by the WTO in 2001, has been working toward a global trade agreement that will liberalize markets to reduce poverty and promote development. But WTO members have failed to reach consensus because of disagreements on issues such as the size of tariff cuts and special treatment for developing nations.

Qiu said China believes a balanced solution to the agricultural issue will be a breakthrough in the current deadlock of the Doha negotiations. She urged major developed members to "substantively and effectively" reduce their agricultural subsidies and tariffs.

At yesterday's meeting, attended by some 150 parliamentarians from 30 countries, Wu Bangguo, chairman of the standing committee of China's NPC, called for more support from parliaments on free trade.

"Parliaments should step up domestic legislation and supervision, support their governments in taking effective measures to reduce trade and investment barriers, promote open trade and increase mutual investment," he said.

Representatives from Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines expressed similar wishes.

"We agree that fairer competition in international trade can help address the global food shortage problem," Aquilino Pimentel Jr, a senator from the Philippines, said.

Hartmut Nassauer, a Euro MP, however, said the proposal to cut subsidies and tariffs might face reluctance in some European countries.

(China Daily June 20, 2008)

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