GMA  CITES  PROGRESS  IN  GLOBAL  TRADE  TALKS

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
(STAR) President Arroyo welcomed yesterday progress in global trade talks, but said developing countries cannot stand idle while a deal is being hammered out and will pursue bilateral and regional free trade agreements as a second-best solution.

“We remember that it was the developed nations who were the prime movers behind global trade — when it suited them,” the President told a Manila conference promoting trade among poorer nations. “Now, some countries are slowing things down.”

But Mrs. Arroyo said there was a ray of hope in the Pacific Rim leaders’ summit in Sydney earlier this month, where several developed economies declared their willingness to cut domestic farm subsidies. In return, the rich countries want greater access to the developing world’s markets, she said.

Pascal Lamy, the World Trade Organization’s director-general, told reporters in Manila on Wednesday that negotiations have reached the final lap and prospects of achieving a deal are much greater than they were six months ago.

In a move seen as breathing life into the struggling talks, the US signaled Wednesday its willingness to limit trade-distorting farm subsidies to a level between $13 billion and $16.4 billion (euro9.3 billion and euro11.7 billion), the WTO’s lead farm trade negotiator, Crawford Falconer of New Zealand, said in Geneva.

The so-called Doha round of trade talks aims to forge a global agreement that would slash trade barriers that supporters say would add billions of dollars (euros) to the world economy and lift millions of people out of poverty.

But the negotiations have repeatedly stalled since their inception in Qatar’s capital in 2001, largely because of wrangling over how much to reduce rich nations’ agricultural subsidies and developing nations’ industrial tariffs.

Mrs. Arroyo said a multilateral trade agreement remains the best option to address poverty and improve living standards around the world because of its agreed set of international trade rules.

“But let me be clear, even as we work tirelessly to move the talks forward, we cannot stand by and do nothing,” she said. “For us, it’s full speed ahead, preferably with Doha, but in the meantime full speed nevertheless.”

Bilateral and regional trading blocs will result in a more complex set of trade rules, but are “a second-best solution” and are better than each one playing alone, she said. — AP


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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