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Switzerland hopes UN trade conference will mend fences

Switzerland hopes that a key international trade conference underway in Bangkok will help defuse the tension that led to the collapse of last year's world trade summit in Seattle. The UN conference was opened by Kofi Annan (pictured).

Switzerland hopes that a key United Nations trade conference underway in Bangkok, will help defuse the tension between rich and poor countries, that led to the collapse of last November’s World Trade Organisation summit in Seattle.

A spokesman for the Swiss delegation said a positive outcome at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) could revive the stalled WTO negotiations. He said that one of the lessons learned in Seattle was the need for a wider dialogue on how poorer nations could reap the benefits of globalisation. The spokesman also reiterated Switzerland’s belief that more technological help should be given to developing countries.

His comments came shortly after the UN secretary-general opened the weeklong conference with a call for a “global new deal” in which rich nations extend a helping hand to poor countries. Mr Annan stressed that globalisation is not the enemy of development, but said that those who do best from it must show solidarity with the less successful.

UNCTAD meets every four years and focuses on promoting trade as a tool of development. It does not come up with binding agreements, but offers a chance for developing countries to press for a greater say in decisions about global trade.

Switzerland contributes an annual payment of three million francs, which is equivalent to 1.5 per cent of UNCTAD’s total costs. It donates a further three million francs each year to the conference’s special projects, including an information programme on the cancellation of debt in developing countries.

From staff and wire reports

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR