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Economics minister casts doubt on success of trade talks

Couchepin has expressed doubt about the success of upcoming trade negotiations in Qatar

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has cast doubt on the prospects for success of talks at the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar in November.

Couchepin made the comments after returning from a weekend trip to Mexico, where he had joined in informal talks with his counterparts from 18 other countries.

"I am not of the opinion that we have managed to create a dynamism which would allow us to achieve a moderate success in Qatar," Couchepin said.

A failure to achieve agreement at the next round of global trade talks, the minister argued, would have a "negative" effect on international commerce.

If the multilateral talks in Doha end without resolution, Couchepin said, those who suffer most will be the millions of people in some of the poorest countries.

Market liberalisation continues

"But of course the world will not stop: liberalisation of the markets will continue on a bilateral level and through regional trade accords," the minister added.

World trade meetings have been hit by controversy since anti-globalisation protesters launched a violent demonstration two years ago at a WTO conference in Seattle, USA.

Mike Moore, director general of the WTO, was upbeat in his own assessment of the ministerial talks in Mexico ahead of November's global conference.

"Some progress was achieved in Mexico," Moore said, "despite persistent differences."

"Nevertheless," the WTO director said, "it is true to say that the meeting of the 18 ministers present did not help to bring about any new concrete commitments."

Preparations for the conference in Doha are set to continue in Geneva, before attention shifts to Qatar for the opening day of the talks on November 9.

swissinfo with agencies

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