Hu Jintao calls for flexibility in Doha talks

Hu Jintao calls for flexibility in Doha talks

Sydney: Chinese President Hu Jintao called on developed members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to be more flexible in trade talks that have dragged on for six years but which many hope will enter their final phase this year.

“We must say no to trade protectionism, eliminate trade barriers and move the Doha Round negotiation towards a comprehensive and balanced outcome at an early date," Hu said in a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Sydney on Thursday.

“The major developed members of the WTO should make due efforts for the successful conclusion of the negotiation by demonstrating more flexibility on key issues, such as reducing agricultural subsidies and tariffs."

The talks which started in 2001 in the city of Doha have been bogged down by deep divisions over farm subsidies, tariffs and a host of other issues.

The United States is under pressure to offer deeper farm cuts, while the European Union and Japan are being pressed to lower agriculture tariffs.

But the fate of the talks may hang equally on whether progress can be made in parallel talks on manufacturing trade.

Industrial goods talks resume in Geneva next week, and US manufacturers say there won’t be a deal unless developing countries like India, Brazil and China open their markets to more foreign goods.

China joined the WTO in 2001 and has participated in the talks, although Beijing not been a leading actor. It has been unhappy with proposals for lowering agricultural tariffs and capping fishing subsidies.

Hu noted that in its five-year transition period after joining the WTO China “drastically cut" its average tariff to 9.9% from 15.3%, and said “the level of openness of its service trade sector is approaching that of developed countries".