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Liberia Says World Trade Must Benefit Poor


Talks to open up world trade hold the key to prosperity for poor countries, Liberia's Foreign Minister said on Thursday. The minister made her remarks at a forum on globalization at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, where Lisa Schlein reports for VOA.

Liberia, emerging after 14 years of civil war, is one of the poorest countries in the world. About 80 percent of its population lives on $1 a day. Only 20 percent is literate.

The country's foreign minister, Olubanke King-Akerele, is hoping the Doha round of negotiations, launched nearly six years ago to boost the world economy by opening up trade, will provide a much-needed boost for the country's economy.

Unlike previous global trade negotiations, it aims specifically to help developing countries by rebalancing world trade rules.

King-Akerele said increased trading opportunities from the Doha round would not only provide hope to people in Liberia but would help in ...

"Strengthening peace and building security, regional and internal through economic revitalization which is essential, if not the most vital task for Liberia," she said. "Our integration into the world economy. Linking farmers, small businesses and entrepreneurs with external markets will play a central role in the economic revitalization of Liberia."

Diplomats have been working intensely in Geneva in recent weeks to conclude a Doha deal.

The United States is under pressure to cut farm subsidies and other rich countries in the European Union to cut their tariffs on agricultural products. In return, rich countries want developing nations to open up their markets to manufactured goods by cutting tariffs.

Despite the talk about equitable trade, King-Akerele says not everyone benefits equally.

She says the WTO and the countries negotiating a new trade agreement have it within their power to create a more just system.

"If Doha fails, the international community will have failed the global poor," she said. "The achievable goal is to create a synergy where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Let us work to dispel any notion of a zero sum game in which rich countries or poor countries win at the expense of the other. Instead, let us create a fair-trade framework, one that emphasizes equitable development, that will expand the pie and extend maximum benefits to all."

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told forum participants progress is being made in the key agriculture and industry talks, and negotiations are speeding up in other areas such as services, which account for more than two thirds of the global economy.

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