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Japanese Envoy To Steer World Trade Talks

By Agence France-Presse Japan's ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Shotaro Oshima, will steer efforts to relaunch deadlocked global trade negotiations when he is appointed to head the WTO's top executive body later this week, diplomats said Feb. 9. Oshima's nomination as chairman of the WTO General Council over the next year was accepted by the 146 member states during an informal meeting in Geneva, they said. It is due to be confirmed on Wednesday during a full meeting of the body at WTO headquarters. The chairmanship of the General Council revolves every year, and WTO members traditionally alternate the post between a representative of a developing country and one from a rich country. It is regarded as a key post for the talks on further liberalization of world trade. Talks on reducing world trade barriers, launched in November 2001 in the Qatari capital Doha, have ground to a halt since the collapse of the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last September. Cancun revealed a deepening chasm between rich and poor countries on trade, especially on farm subsidies in richer countries and the level of tariffs on agricultural exports from poorer nations. The Japanese career diplomat will be backed by new heads of seven negotiating groups dealing with specific topics whose nominations were also endorsed during the informal meeting. They include New Zealand ambassador Tim Groser at the helm of the group dealing with the highly-charged topic of agriculture, diplomats said. New Zealand is a key player in the 18-strong Cairns group of farm exporting countries that is staunchly opposed to subsidies implemented by the European Union and the United States. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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