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WTO: still committed to ambition

10 November 2005

WTO: still committed to ambition

The latest small group meeting in Geneva was "a reality check", Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton, speaking from Geneva where he attended the urgentally-called small group meeting, said no-one was talking about reducing ambition for the Doha Round and he took that as a positive from our meeting.

The two-day "Green Room" meeting aimed at trying to produce consensus before the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting in December. Invited Ministers from 15 WTO member countries attended the meeting, hosted by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy.

Mr Sutton said what was "all too clear" was that there was still a wide gap between members on key areas, and especially between the European Community and others on agricultural market access.

"We have not been able to bridge these fundamental differences. What this means is we are unlikely to get to the hoped-for "full modalities" at the Hong Kong Ministerial."

Modalities are WTO-speak for the outlines of a multilateral trade agreement. They prepare the way for the negotiation of precise tariff rate reductions, quota volumes and other details.

"Ministers were still determined to make as much progress as possible up to and at the Hong Kong meeting. But what we will have to do is make time after Hong Kong to conclude full modalities. This is going to require continued political level attention if we are to achieve the target of end-2006 for conluding the Doha negotiations."

Mr Sutton said there were constructive discussions held on development issues.

"This is a development Round, and I saw clear commitment to delivering on that promise. But sustainable development gains will remain elusive unless we can free up access to the agricultural and other markets in the wealthy industrialised countries."

ENDS

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