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Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009

WTO chief pushes Japan on Doha


Staff writer

As a major beneficiary, Japan must play an active role in jump-starting the stalled Doha Round talks, the chief of the World Trade Organization said Wednesday in Tokyo.

"There is no free lunch at the WTO," Director General Pascal Lamy said, touching on Tokyo's defensive posture to protect its agricultural market and fisheries.

Speaking at the Japan National Press Club, Lamy asserted that a Doha Round agreement would have a positive impact on the slumping global economy. About 80 percent of the negotiations are concluded, but multilateral efforts will be required to complete the agreement, he added.

Progress in the Doha talks will become "the stimulus that could jump-start the global economy," Lamy said.

The WTO chief acknowledged that, as a major exporter, Japan is particularly vulnerable to the global economic crisis.

But opening up its market is in Japan's interest, he insisted, sending a signal to Tokyo that it should compromise in some areas.

Japan has been reluctant to go along with the WTO proposal to limit the tariff exemption on farm products to 4 percent. Tokyo has insisted on raising the amount to 8 percent.

Lamy said the next challenge is to bring the Doha Round talks back to the political stage, and to watch closely how the new U.S. administration will arrange its trade policies.

Lamy said that although the WTO has seen signs of protectionism, nothing so far has set off alarm bells.

Lamy arrived in Japan Tuesday for a three-day stay as a guest of the government.

During a meeting Tuesday with Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, the two sides agreed on the hazards of protectionism and to pursue a swift conclusion of the Doha Round.



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The Japan Times

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