WTO conference to go ahead in Doha
World Trade Organization (WTO) officials said on Tuesday October 9, that they are still preparing for next month's scheduled WTO ministerial meeting in Qatar, despite the onset of US-led military action in Afghanistan.
Asked whether the November 9-13 conference could now take place, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell on Tuesday referred to comments by WTO chief Mike Moore a day earlier, stressing that the plans had not changed. US sources also said there was no change.
"American officials are still preparing to go to Doha," a US source said here on Tuesday. "As we've consistently said, we are monitoring the security situation closely for any developments that could change the equation," the source commented.
WTO Director-General Mike Moore, facing regular quizzing over whether the WTO conference will be held since the terror attacks on the US on September 11, stressed on Monday that preparations were still underway.
"Ever since the 11th September, we are planning to go to Doha (Qatar)," Moore said to reporters. "We must keep the pressure on ourselves and we are determined to do this," he said, adding "serious people" were examining the issue carefully.
Trade sources point out that the 142-member Geneva-based world trade body is a member-driven organization and a decision on whether to alter the plans would not be taken by the WTO secretariat. French President Jacques Chirac voiced confidence in the ability of Qatar to organize the meeting in Doha as planned during talks with the emir of Qatar Hamad Bin Khalifa El-Thani on Monday in Paris, a spokeswoman for the Elysee said.
To date, Switzerland has not been asked to host the meeting instead but "if anything changes Switzerland will live up to its obligations as a host country", said Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen, head of the WTO division at the state secretariat of economic affairs in the Swiss Economics Ministry.
If current plans changed, and if no other country stepped in with an offer to host the event, Switzerland would do so but could not be ready by the scheduled dates in November, she said.
Switzerland hosted the 1998 WTO ministerial meeting but at that time had roughly a year's notice. WTO ministers are due to agree an agenda for a new "round" of negotiations on liberalizing trade at the Qatar meeting. They failed to do so at their last ministerial gathering in Seattle, US, in 1999, although negotiations in agriculture and services have since begun. — (AFP, Geneva)
© Agence France Presse
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)