'Rich Countries' Urged To Break WTO Deadlock

By Agence France-Presse Industrialized countries at next week's WTO trade conference in Mexico must spearhead efforts to overcome obstacles that have so far held up progress on global trade liberalization, the heads of three influential international bodies declared Sept. 4. "Rich countries have to take the lead in areas now blocking the talks, particularly agriculture," IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler, World Bank President James Wolfensohn and OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Secretary General Donald Johnston said in a joint statement ahead of a World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Cancun Sept. 10-14. "Middle income countries have to contribute as well, reducing tariffs that affect not only their own citizens but other developing countries." The Cancun conference has been called to galvanize momentum in negotiations under way since November 2001 that are aimed at tearing down world trade barriers. The talks are being held under the auspices of the WTO, whose members launched a fresh round of multilateral trade talks in the Qatari capital Doha two years ago. With a January 1, 2005, deadline looming, the negotiations have largely foundered to date, notably on the question of government subsidies to agriculture. "Developed countries impose tariffs on agriculture that are eight to 10 times higher than on industrial goods," the joint statement noted. "Many continue to use various forms of export subsidies that drive down world prices and take markets away from farmers in poorer countries." "We need a decisive break with trade policies that hurt economic development," the join statement said. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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