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New Zealander appointed to key WTO role

New Zealander appointed to key WTO role

World Trade Organisation members have formed a consensus on the new chairman for the WTO's General Council and for the chairs of negotiating groups for the Doha Development Agenda. New Zealand's Ambassador to the WTO Tim Groser is to be Chair of the key agriculture negotiating committee, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said there were two good reasons for welcoming the decisions by the WTO General Council.

"First, the continuing evidence that confidence is being revived in the Doha Round following the setback at Cancun in September. This is a further positive step towards reengagement and genuine negotiation.

"This is a technical step and not itself a negotiating breakthrough ? but it is a step that required a political intention on the part of all players to make 2004 a constructive year for the Doha Agenda."

Mr Sutton said he was delighted serious negotiations could re-commence.

"Since the disappointing outcome at Cancun, I have been pushing hard, working with other WTO ministers, to get the talks back on track."

Mr Sutton said Mr Groser's appointment as chair of the Agriculture Negotiations reflected the high regard for New Zealand among fellow WTO members.

"We are seen as a committed multilateralist with integrity and fairness. Chairs are appointed in their individual capacities and I know that Tim Groser will carry out his duties as Chair of the Committee on Agriculture with true professionalism and neutrality."

At the APEC leaders meeting in October, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in December, and the FAO biennial Conference in Rome chaired by Mr Sutton, all WTO members have been urged to re-engage in the negotiations.

"And the message coming through has been increasingly positive. The recent informal ministerial meeting at Davos, which I attended, confirmed that WTO members are ready to reactivate the negotiations. The recent letter from United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to other trade ministers had provided another welcome boost."

Mr Sutton said the difficulties of concluding the Doha Round should not be under-estimated.

"I have constantly urged upon my WTO ministerial colleagues the need to be more flexible and constructive in the negotiations. Only a successful multilateral round will deliver the substantial benefits we all want from trade liberalisation, whether developed or developing countries. This reality has been underlined by the recent Australia-United States free trade agreement negotiations."

Mr Sutton said the selection of the Chairs of the various negotiating groups in Geneva was the first, and necessary, step.

He thanked Carlos Perez del Castillo, the Uruguay Ambassador in Geneva, for the dedication and skill that he had demonstrated as outgoing Chair of the General Council and the dexterity with which he kept things moving forward, despite the setback of Cancun. New Zealand looked forward to dealing with Perez del Castillo's successor, Mr Shotaro Oshima from Japan.


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