A deal on the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Doha round trade talks is the best way to help poor countries tackle the current global economic crisis, the organization's director general Pascal Lamy said on Wednesday.
Lamy today followed up his earlier comments by saying he would decide soon whether to call a ministerial meeting on the Doha trade round, but said setting a deadline for talks was premature.
"In the present economic turmoil, what was necessary yesterday has now become indispensable,'' he said, adding, ''The international community must deliver on both trade and aid," national television TVK quoted him as telling the opening ceremony of the two-day LDC (least developed countries) Ministerial Conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
"I think there is a growing consensus that only multilateral solutions can address the challenges facing the global economy today," he told the delegates, who came from a total of 49 counties to discuss issues related to international trade.
He said ministers from some of the world's poorest countries, meeting in Cambodia this week to discuss trade and aid issues, wanted a quick deal because they feared protectionist groups would use the global economic slump to push their agenda. Leaders of the G20 group of rich and emerging economies pledged on Saturday to try to get the outlines of a new accord in the WTO's Doha round agreed by the end of the year to help deal with the financial crisis.
The Doha round was launched in the Qatari capital seven years ago to free up world trade by cutting farm subsidies, and reducing tariffs on agricultural and industrial goods, with a clear mandate to help developing countries. A meeting of ministers in July came close to a breakthrough but faltered because of differences between the US and India over measures to protect subsistence farmers in poor countries from a surge in imports. (See: Free trade hopes fade as WTO talks collapse)
Lamy also announced his intention to stand for a second term as head of the WTO. Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, while expressing his support for Lamy's candidature, also said that a majority of the poorer countries being represented at the LDC conference supported him.
A joint press release by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said that Wednesday's meeting aimed to help LDCs integrate their economies into the global trading system.
One of the main topics was "Aid for Trade" (AfT), a package of incentives designed to help overcome structural and resource constraints of least developed countries in exchange for more speedy trade reforms, it added.