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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
Trade talks face trials after G8 summit
The seafront at Doha, Qatar, where WTO talks are intended to begin in November
Trade talks in Doha will hope to avoid Seattle-scale protests
In the wake of the G8 summit, a rash of meetings involving leaders from both developed and developing countries are trying to maintain the momentum for renewed global trade talks.

US and UK trade ministers are meeting in Washington to try to avert possible US tariffs on steel imports and settle other outstanding differences.

But at the same time, ministers from the 49 least developed countries (LDCs) in the world are meeting in the island of Zanzibar.

They are seeking a united front to ensure their needs are not crowded out by those of industrialised states at trade talks planned for later this year.

Blocking tactics

After the chaos in Genoa, the target for talks is the World Trade Organisation's meeting in Doha, Qatar, scheduled for this November.

UK Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt
Patricia Hewitt: hoping to smooth UK-US differences
Doha represents an attempt by the WTO to restart the trade round, which was previously derailed by the protests in Seattle in 1999.

But even if the authorities in Doha manage to keep protest to a minimum, the talks continue to face significant risks of breakdown.

Since WTO decisions need to proceed by consensus, the LDCs who are members could stall talks indefinitely if they agree to work as a bloc.

"I believe they have a strong case," said Rubens Ricupero, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).

"The LDCs can't make further concessions in terms of trade; most have already liberalised under the structural adjustment programmes of the IMF and the World Bank.

"Now it is time to recognise that they have some credit for liberalisation."

Barriers remain

With the 49 least developed countries accounting for just 0.4% of world exports, delegates said they want to ensure that market liberalisation favours their interests.

They also want developed countries to honour commitments that would open markets in industries like agriculture and textiles.

Most 'least developed countries' have already liberalised under the programmes of the IMF and the World Bank. Now it is time to recognise that they have some credit for it

Rubens Ricupero, Unctad secretary general
LDC ministers have made it clear they do not oppose globalisation, just the current trajectory which, they say, is designed to favour the rich.

"The principle (of globalisation) is correct," said Idi Simba, Tanzania's trade minister. "In the long run, we are all going to gain provided everybody sticks to the rules. But the rules are not yet kept."

Also on the agenda is the question of patents held by Western drug companies on medicines needed for Aids, malaria and tuberculosis, among other diseases.

Delegates in Zanzibar want their existing right to breach patents in the case of health emergencies strengthened.

The US in particular disapproves of further opt-outs on this issue.

Washington talks

The subject will almost certainly come up in the UK-US talks, the first between the Bush administration and the new ministerial team following the UK's general election in June.

New UK Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt and her trade minister, Baroness Symons, will try to quell the risk of US tariffs on steel imports, mooted by Bush administration officials to help a troubled domestic steel industry.

They are also likely to discuss recent disagreements which have seen both sides launch punitive tariffs.

For the US, it was to push a European Union reluctantly into dismantling its preferential system for banana imports from Caribbean countries.

Reports suggest the WTO deal which in theory settled that argument is coming unstuck as the two sides disagree over the length of waivers before the preferences are removed.

For Europe, it is a WTO decision barring the US from offering favourable tax rates to American "foreign sales corporations" which spurred the sanctions.

The US' Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, has made it clear he is still unhappy with that decision.

Unctad's Rubens Ricupero
"The LDCs can't make further concessions in terms of trade"
Tanzania's Idi Simba
"We are not getting a fair deal"
See also:

22 Jul 01 | Business
Q&A: G8 Summit explained
22 Jul 01 | Europe
G8 pledges to help poor
19 Jun 00 | Middle East
G15 leaders attack globalisation
14 Sep 00 | e-cyclopedia
Globalisation: What on Earth is it about?
26 Jun 01 | Business
WTO promises trade talk progress
22 Jun 01 | Business
WTO may 'back' EU in trade dispute
14 Jun 01 | Business
Bush and EU push trade talks
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