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WTO Director Urges China to Push for Free-Trade Talks - 2003-11-10


The head of the World Trade Organization is calling on China to use its growing economic influence to push for the restart of stalled multi-lateral free-trade talks.

WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi spoke to a group of Chinese officials and businesspeople in Beijing, urging China to help push for the resumption of talks.

"More than ever, we need China to join in with other members to put the round back on track and to move it forward," said Mr. Supachai.

China is the world's fifth-largest trading power, and Mr. Supachai said it is in the country's best interest that the next round succeed. The WTO chief said China is in a good position to help resolve the kind of differences that caused negotiations to collapse in Cancun, Mexico, in September.

"At a time when the WTO faces an impasse, we need China to use its influence to be a bridge between developed and developing member countries," he said. "China holds a unique position as being both a developing country and an emerging superpower."

Talks on drafting an agenda for the organization fell apart in September when developing nations, in a dispute with rich countries over agricultural issues, walked out of the negotiations.

Chinese Deputy Commerce Minister Yu Guangzhou blamed the collapse of the Cancun talks on what he said was the failure by wealthy WTO members to address the needs of developing countries.

Some analysts have labeled the breakdown of talks a catastrophe. The WTO head called that characterization inappropriate, saying the collapse had brought about a new willingness by members to work to make the negotiations succeed.

Mr. Supachai said he is working with trade officials of various countries to hold another round of talks before a December deadline.

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