WTO members ready to discuss farming barriers

The World Trade Organisation has decided on a loose timetable for its planned debate on global trade in the farming and service industries. The agreement to discuss the issue was reached during a meeting at the WTO's headquarters in Geneva.

This content was published on February 7, 2000 - 19:41

The World Trade Organisation has decided on a loose timetable for its planned debate on global trade in the farming and service industries. The agreement to discuss the issue was reached during a meeting at the WTO's headquarters in Geneva.

Envoys from 135 countries attended the meeting, which came less than two months after the summit in Seattle, where ministers failed to agree an agenda for a new, more wide-ranging trade round.

The start of talks in the two sectors within six weeks is regarded as a confidence boosting measure after the breakdown of the millenium round. But diplomats predicted that without any attempt to address the substance of the issues or to set a deadline, the talks could drag on for years.

Farm produce is a contentious issue, with Switzerland, the European Union, Norway, Japan and South Korea opposing moves to reduce subsidies and measures that protect farmers.

The trade in services involves banking, insurance and travel. WTO officials said that both areas cover 65 of global output and 80 percent of world jobs.

Mike Moore, the WTO's director general, appealed to members to begin talks this month on ways of improving the organistion's transparency, a key criticism of anti-globalisation campaigners.

In an attempt to address some of the divisions that emerged in Seattle, the General Council also agreed to emphasise developing countries' concerns during trade talks. Developing countries hope to press their concerns further at a meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development later this week in Bangkok.

By Peter Capella

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