Moore Says WTO to Play Hardball in 2000 By Marion Rae
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Talking the talk is not enough -- there will be free trade action this year, World Trade Organization Director-General Mike Moore said on Thursday.
Moore departs for India on Saturday as part of a bid to restart global trade talks that collapsed last month against a backdrop of violent demonstrations in Seattle.
``Whatever happens, we will begin negotiations on agriculture and services this year. That's mandated already, that covers about 70 percent of the world economy,'' Moore told Reuters.
The ``Millennium round'' of talks collapsed largely because of anger among developing countries, who make up the majority of the WTO's 135 member states, at what they saw as an effort by some big powers to railroad them into new accords.
Weeping Over Seattle
Moore says poorer nations lost the most in Seattle and have much to gain through freer trade, though he admits the fight is an uphill battle.
``There'll be rocky times ahead for some countries because some have enormous problems digesting and getting legislation through their parliaments to commit themselves to things that were decided some years ago,'' Moore said.
``We hope to provide technical assistance...we hope to provide some space. The tragedy is that it's the poorest countries that are the biggest victims of this, the big guys will be okay.
``It's the poorest of the poor that should weep over Seattle.''
The visit to India is Moore's latest effort at ''kick-starting'' the negotiating process, said an envoy in Geneva who attended the Seattle meeting.
Moore will be in Delhi from Sunday till Wednesday meeting top officials and business leaders from India, widely seen as a key player in determining the overall stance of developing countries on trade issues.
Moore has spoken to trade ministers from 30 countries since the breakdown of talks in Seattle and listed agriculture, labor and the environment as ``difficult issues.''
``I will be entering pretty intense discussions with a couple of countries on my return to Geneva to see if it's possible to get a process going this year,'' he said, declining to identify which countries would fall under the WTO spotlight.
Democracy And Efficiency
The WTO continued to reflect its roots as a post-World War Two institution founded with 30-odd member countries, and Moore said he was looking at how the organization could be opened up.
``We've got to find new and fresh ways of involving, say, the small Pacific Island countries, the countries in the Caribbean. But there's also an anxiety of issues of globalization -- a feeling of powerlessness,'' Moore said.
Despite Moore's support for the global trading system, he noted that free trade was not the complete solution.
``While trade is part of the answer, it's only a part.
``I've got members who are paying nine times more on debt repayments than they are on health. They've got an AIDS epidemic, yet they can't export their agriculture or their textiles, or they haven't got a decent port or infrastructure,'' Moore said.
United Nations trade and development agency UNCTAD is scheduled to meet in February and Moore plans to attend the top-level meeting in Bangkok as part of his efforts to develop cooperation between world organizations.