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Mike Moore in Hot Water Over WTO Negotiations

New Zealander Mike Moore, now heading the WTO, is in hot water with fourteen developing countries who say they are being shut out of WTO negotitations. John Howard reports.

In a heated meeting on Friday trade ambassadors from fourteen countries including Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Peru, Mauritius and Uganda aired their grievances to Moore.

The delegations are furious they are not being invited to confidential negotiations on a draft ministerial declaration for the coming WTO Seattle trade summit.

The draft declaration that will go to Seattle for approval by trade ministers from 135 countries is expected to contain measures that will govern the new round of global trade talks on agriculture, services and other sectors of the global economy.

One ambassador complained that "the WTO does not even bother to give us a read out on what other delegations are discussing in the green room," where select nations are drafting the declaration.

"It seems to be the old club style system," said Panama's ambassador, Alfredo Suescum.

Sitting at the confidential sessions are the United States, the European Union, Japan, Canada, developing powers such as Brazil and India and selcted nations from wealthy and emerging countries such as Malaysia, Australia, South Korea and Hungary.

Other countries are selectively invited to some sessions depending on the relevance of the subject being discussed.

A senior Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that an element of arrogance of the big nations reflected and indifference to the concerns of the smaller WTO members.

Moore reportedly said he can't change the way he operates small meetings further admitting the WTO has structural problems. He promised to continue "with whatever fits" to secure a balanced and successful outcome and to consult with excluded nations.

An ambassador from the aggrieved group said he doubted that will result in a more inclusive process. Other delegations fear that unless the situation is rectified soon by Moore, there is a risk of a repeat scenario during the summit, with some ministers excluded from key meetings.

ends


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