WTO to meet 30 November

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The World Trade Organisation will hold its delayed ministerial meeting in Geneva.

Geneva -- The World Trade Organisation said Tuesday it will hold its long-delayed full ministerial meeting from 30 November to 2 December 2009 in Geneva.

The WTO is obliged to call a meeting of all its ministers every two years, although the timetable slipped recently given failing progress of the Doha Round of negotiations for a new trade liberalisation pact.

The last ministerial meeting involving the full membership of the WTO was held in Hong Kong in 2005, and failed to resolve the round of global trade talks.

Since Hong Kong, only a limited number of ministers from major trading nations or those representing trading blocs gathered to advance the Doha Round, which began in the Qatari capital in 2001.

However, unlike Hong Kong, the 2009 Geneva meeting is not expected to be a negotiating session for the Doha Round, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said after a meeting of the organisation's ruling General Council.

Instead, it will carry the theme "The WTO, the multilateral trading system and the current global economic environment."

In December, WTO chief Pascal Lamy said he did not expect the ministerial session to be a high-profile event since the Doha talks remained stalled in disagreements.

"My own sense is that this need not be the big jamboree we have seen in the past, but rather a venue where members take a strategic look at the future and steps to advance the goals of the organisation," he said then.

In a report to member states on Tuesday, Lamy said there now appeared to be "an increasing level of political engagement and clear signals of renewed commitment and support for a rapid conclusion of the Doha Round."

"My impression is that while the economic crisis has worsened since the beginning of the year, the political atmosphere in the negotiations has improved," he said.

He warned however that as the economic crisis affects rising job losses, there would be greater political pressure against international trade.

"I personally believe... that the 'stress test' of the multilateral trading system is still to come," he said, adding that a Doha conclusion is therefore "crucial" in resisting the potential headwinds.

AFP / Expatica

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