China's WTO Updates
WTO Trade Chiefs to Meet in Australia

Australia will host a major meeting of trade ministers in November in a bid to push along the latest round of global trade negotiations, Trade Minister Mark Vaile announced yesterday.

Vaile said about 25 ministers from countries including the United States, European Union, Japan and Singapore would attend the meeting in Sydney on November 14 and 15.

The gathering will come exactly a year after ministers from the 144-member World Trade Organization (WTO) met in Doha to launch a new round of negotiations to lower global trade barriers.

Vaile said the meeting would be "critical" for addressing a number of sticky issues that have emerged ahead of the next full meeting of the Geneva-based WTO in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003.

The meeting will include a "cross-section (of nations) so that all interest groups within the WTO have their interests represented around a table," he said.

"Where there's been some sticky issues this year in terms of timeframes for modalities, we need ministers to give clear instructions to the director-general and the bureaucracy in Geneva on what we expect to happen," he said.

Two similar "mini-ministerial" meetings held in the lead up to the Doha conference were credited with helping pave the way for the new round of global trade talks to get underway.

A key area of concern for Australia and other big farming nations has been the issue of agricultural subsidies in the United States and the European Union - practices which have undermined the Doha negotiations.

A US decision to impose tariffs on steel imports to protect its ailing industry has also angered trade partners. Australia has since negotiated bilateral exemptions from the tariffs, a move which in turn upset the EU.

Trade ministry officials said the incoming WTO chief, Supachai Panichpakdi of Thailand, is likely to attend the Sydney meeting and Vaile said representatives from poorer African nations such as Senegal and Lesotho would also participate.

Vaile said he had discussed his plans for the November gathering here with Mexican Economy Minister Luis Derbez, who will chair next year's WTO negotiations in Cancun.

(Xinhua News Agency August 16, 2002)

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