WTO Chief: Trade Talks Can Be Completed On Time

By Agence France-Presse WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said March 26 that global talks on further liberalizing trade could be completed on schedule at the end of 2004 despite several missed deadlines. Supachai said he rejected suggestions that the talks' final deadline should be postponed, saying developing countries could not afford to wait any longer for "a resolution to their economic and social difficulties. "Official development assistance and debt relief do not on their own offer the sort of long term contribution to economic development that would accrue through enhanced trade in the developing world," he said. Stuart Harbinson, agriculture talks' chairman, told the 145 WTO members that the March 31 deadline for establishing modalities for their negotiations would not be met, trade sources said. "If the deadlines are missed because members have stopped talking and walked out on the process, this is a crisis," Supachai said. "But if the problem is that member governments simply need more time to resolve what are clearly complex and politically difficult issues, that is an indication that things are moving forward, albeit at a pace which is frustrating for some." Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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