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Next Week's WTO Meeting Crucial For New Zealand

The successful launch of a new round of world trade negotiations at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Qatar next week was vital for New Zealand and indeed the world, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said trade ministers from the 142 WTO members who would meet in the Middle East city of Doha were better prepared and more motivated to launch a new trade negotiations round than they had been in Seattle two years ago.

"I am more optimistic about the chances now than I have been previously. With China and Chinese Taipei about to join the WTO in Doha, I think the chances of a successful launch are about 70-30 in favour of it happening."

He said any new round should include movement in sectors such as agriculture, forest products, and fish products, which were hugely important for New Zealand.

"In the area of agriculture, New Zealand seeks substantial improvements to market access through reduced tariffs and expanded quotas, the elimination of all forms of export subsidies and substantial reductions in other trade and production-distorting support. "

Mr Sutton said the WTO under New Zealander Mike Moore's leadership had become more responsive to its critics and had moved to address concerns.

"For example, issues such as the environment and labour standards are now talked about in WTO meetings. Sustainable development has become a catchcry. However, these things should not be used as protectionist barriers that stop developing nations from achieving greater prosperity for their citizens."

He said the elimination or reduction of trade-distorting export subsidies would help more than just the people trying to sell more products into certain markets.

"A new WTO round addressing concerns about fish subsidies, for example, could be a win-win-win situation: a win for nations that sell fish, because reducing subsidies would improve the prices they get; a win for the environment, because those subsidies contribute to over-fishing; and a win for the consumer, because fisheries will become sustainable long-term, ensuring they will have fish to eat."

Mr Sutton said New Zealand had benefited significantly from the last WTO trade round, the Uruguay Round.

"The dynamism we see in our dairy industry currently is attributable, at least in part, to the extra market access that was negotiated internationally in the Uruguay Round."

At the Doha meeting, scheduled to run from November 9 till November 13, China and Chinese Taipei will be formally admitted to the WTO. After that, both countries must ratify that decision in their own jurisdictions, and then a month after that, they become fully participating members.

Mr Sutton said China's and Chinese Taipei's accession was good news for New Zealand.

The accession packages New Zealand negotiated with both economies meant significant market access and tariff reductions for businesses exporting to China and Chinese Taipei, he said. Taken together, the benefits had been estimated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as worth about $100 million a year.

>From his trip back from Doha, Mr Sutton will stop in Dubai briefly. There, he will discuss potential business opportunities for New Zealand with Dubai ministers and officials from Emirates airline.


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