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1,000+ NGOs to Attend HK WTO Meeting

Over 1,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been accredited to attend the WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong from December 13 to 18, according to Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology John Tsang yesterday.

A government press release said he told the NGO Roundtable Forum, held in the special administrative region, that it will be more than 10 times the number that attended the inaugural meeting in Singapore in 1996.

He said WTO members over the last decade have increasingly recognized the role that NGOs play in raising public awareness of WTO-related issues, as well as increasing transparency and public communication.

Tsang said the Hong Kong meeting will also be the first time accredited NGO representatives and delegates are housed under the same roof.

On issues to be tackled at upcoming WTO meetings, he said, to many major agricultural producers, elimination of US and EU subsidies is a necessary first step in redressing international market distortion, but by itself was not sufficient to generate new trade. For that, there must also be genuine new market opening.

Trade in agricultural products accounts only for a relatively small proportion of world trade, about 8 percent, but some smaller economies depend on it.

He said WTO members will need to flesh out the framework agreed in July 2004 on agriculture and non-agricultural market access, define targets for service negotiations, and agree on the next concrete steps for rules negotiations.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club after the forum yesterday, said "Hong Kong is not just another Port of Call for Doha round negotiations, it is our best opportunity to bring the round to a conclusion by the end of 2006."

(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2005)

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