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Business

Global Trade Talks

The small Persian gulf state of Qatar is hosting five days of what could turn out to be tough international trade talks.

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Ministers and negotiators from the 142 World Trade Organisation member states are getting together for a five-day global trade round in the Qatari capital Doha on Friday.

WTO Director-General Mike Moore is cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the meeting. "We're not there yet but we have a very good basis to get there", he says.

A draft text for a declaration by the ministers has already been prepared, setting up an agenda for a formal WTO negotiating round that would put a strong emphasis on solving the developing nations' problems, Moore says.

Moore has warned, though, that if the Qatar summit were to follow in the steps of the disastrous Seattle meeting two years ago, the global economy would again be one step closer to a recession.

On the other hand, observers say the United States and the EU look to be headed for a clash over farming policies, more explicitly over the way they subsidize agricultural products. Both face criticism from countries such as Australia and New Zealand, who want free trade and an end to all subsidies.

The EU's insistence that a wide array of issues, including food safety, social standards and the environment be part of the talks, has also given rise to opposition by many developing countries . Developing countries are looking for better access to the lucrative EU and US markets, and urging an end to subsidies on the EU agriculture market.

Thailand, for example, is part of a North-South group seeking wider access to European and U.S. markets for its farm produce.

Germany optimistic on summit's outcome

German industry is optimistic that the WTO meeting could lead to a round of further liberalisation of markets, and a strengthening of multilateral trade rules. This would give the global economy, industrial leaders say, a new perspective. World trade this year has grown by only two percent, as compared to 12 percent last year.

Ludolf von Wartenberg of the Federal Association of German Industry says the developing countries should have a special advantage from liberalized trade. The key to a successful WTO conference are the developing countries, he says, adding that they have a right to call for stronger particiaption in world trade.

Developing countries, he says, must be given better export possibilities.

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