Supachai: Qatar WTO talks may be postponed
The next round of world trade talks in Doha, Qatar, may have to be postponed following the terrorist attacks in the United States, the next World Trade Organization (WTO) head said Monday, September 24.
Thailand's former deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi said the talks, scheduled for November, could be postponed up to a month. "If it's impossible to hold the meeting between November 9 and 13, we may change dates a bit but we shouldn't change the venue," he told a press conference here.
Asked whether he was suggesting the talks be postponed, Supachai replied: "If the countries so desire." While the issue of postponing the ministerial conference had not been raised with the trade body's 142 members, "There have been some informal talks in this area," he said.
Supachai said even if the talks were postponed, the venue should not be changed. "I think we have to have the understanding that the Qatar government has put all its effort into this very important event. If we have to put up certain special arrangements, it's not insurmountable to do so," he said, adding he thought the talks should not be delayed more than a month.
Diplomatic sources have said the Gulf state would be a risky location for a gathering that would involve ministers from all over the world and include significant US and Israeli delegations, especially if tension increased in the Middle East after a US reprisal against those behind the attacks.
The WTO is due to try again to get a new round of trade liberalization talks off the ground at Qatar after the Seattle conference failed in November-December 1999 against a backdrop of fierce anti-globalization protests.
Delaying the Qatar talks could increase the chance of success this time, said Supachai who takes over as WTO next year. "If we need to do that, we'll be giving more time to work on the new round. It would grant a larger success likelihood for the launching of the round."
Supachai expressed confidence in the outcome of the Qatar talks despite the collapse of the Seattle meet. "After Seattle we've done a lot of confidence building, so much so that at this moment in time I think we are close to achieving our goals."
In calling for increased globalization, Supachai said there was a need to "harness" the process in order to minimize the negative consequences. "These days, when we're faced with the challenges of anti-globalization and faced with some of the quite alarming terrorism actions ... the best thing is to try and get our act together. If we can manage the globalization in a way that we can limit the negative consequences, we can move to rebuild the gaps between rich and poor nations." ― (AFP, Wellington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)