Malaysia Outlines Conditions on New WTO Round
Malaysia on Sunday set conditions for its support for a new round of global trade talks, the stumbling block at the APEC forum.
As most economies argued that a pressing time-frame meant the World Trade Organization (WTO) must assemble next year, Malaysia held out on agreeing to a date.
That meant the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, bound by a consensus rule, was forced only to call for a new WTO trade liberalization round "at the earliest opportunity."
Malaysia said that before a date for talks could be set, there had to be an agenda.
"We are for a new round, what we are saying is that as things stand (at WTO headquarters) in Geneva, it's unlikely a new round can be held this year or next year," Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz told reporters.
"The only thing that stands between not having a new round and having one is an agenda that has the balanced interests of both developing and developed countries."
One of the sticky issues in an otherwise smooth meeting between senior APEC officials on Friday was the question of when to call for a new round of trade talks in the WTO.
The director of regional economic development at Japan's foreign ministry, Makio Miyakawa, without pointing the finger at Malaysia, said only "one country voiced concern" about a date.
Rafidah said Geneva is characterized by a "stand-off" among countries with different interests, meaning that issues like anti-dumping fail to be put on the agenda.
"So in Brunei, set a date to form up an agenda," she said. "Then from that date when we set the agenda, we will set the date for a new round."
She said any discussion at the Brunei meeting other than one setting a deadline for an agenda would be "be a futile exercise for anybody who wants anything to come out of APEC."
"They can jolly well say 2001, but they are kidding themselves," she said. "The point is you don't have an agenda -- how can you launch a round without an agenda?" -- BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (AFP)
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