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NEWS ADMIN

Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani

DATE

12/09/2003

NEWS PROVIDER

Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani

NEWS SOURCE

Bernama

CATEGORY

HEADLINE

Explicit Consensus Is Vital For Success Of WTO Mee
CANCUN (Mexico), Sept 9 (Bernama) -- For global trade talks to succeed,the fifth World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference must comeout with a statement which all the 148 WTO members will have to agreethrough explicit consensus, the Minister of International Trade andIndustry, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said.

"Only then can negotiations start to liberalise trade on the sectorsagreed to," she said in an interview with Bernama recently.

"If there is no explicit consensus, we can't even talk about the issues,"she said.

Rafidah, who is scheduled to arrive at this renowned Mexican resort islandby Tuesday, said that "there is no need and nothing needs to be signed atCancun."

Among the issues to hog the limelight at Cancun include agriculture,industrial products and services.

"What trade ministers must strive to achieve in Cancun is to issue adeclaration or statement that everybody agrees to and that is only tostart negotiations," said Rafidah when asked to comment what wouldconstitute a successful Cancun conference.

The accession of Cambodia and Nepal at the conference in Cancun wouldraise the membership to 148. The five-day WTO meeting begins on Wednesday.

Rafidah said people have misunderstood that "Cancun is about agreeing tonegotiate on some of the issues agreed to relating to agriculture andservices (but) Cancun is about agreeing to start negotiations on themodalities."

As far as agriculture is concerned, the modalities are there, the questionnow is whether the tariff cuts are sufficient or not, the minister said.

Rafidah said some countries imposed bound rates as high as 300 percent forthe import of palm oil, which means even if they cut their rates by 30percent the applied rates would still be high.

Besides, the provision of high agricultural subsidies and export subsidiesby the United States and European Union are expected to be major obstaclesto Cancun being successful.

Turning to new issues such as competition policy, services as well asgovernment procurement being pushed by majors, especially Japan, Rafidahsaid,"We couldn't even get an explicit consensus on them at the last roundin Doha two years ago.

"Most of the countries do not want to start negotiations on the new issuesbut rather want an education process.

"You cannot treat new issues on the same level of intensity with that ofagriculture and services."

Rafidah said many countries wanted to enter Malaysia's services market and"we similarly want to enter other people's markets in areas such asprofessional services and construction and we have received offers andhave made requests.

"But our position is that we will open up progressively based on ourcapacity," she said."We will also open where we know it is advantageous toopen up because we get reciprocity treatment from others."

Rafidah added,"If professional bodies advise us to open up and are willingto face competition in Malaysia from foreign bodies because there is atrade off in that they can enter other people's markets, we will open up.This is reciprocity and it is within the WTO."

--BERNAMA