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US trade rep meets WTO chief

NUSA DUA, June 8 – US Trade Representative Ron Kirk met World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy in Indonesia on Monday during talks with farm exporters on global trade liberalisation.

The pair met on the sidelines of a ministerial conference of the Cairns Group, 19 farm exporting countries that form a major block in the stalled Doha Round of negotiations on a new global trade pact.

Former Dallas mayor Kirk was appointed to the post in March and has promised to take a fresh approach to the Doha negotiations.

The round reached a dead end in July amid differences between industrialised countries like the United States and developing countries like India and China over farm subsidies and market access.

Kirk is expected to hold his first bilateral meeting with India\’s new trade minister, Anand Sharma, later Monday as part of a new bid by both countries to overcome the difficulties.

The Cairns Group, which includes Australia, Brazil and Canada, is expected to call for a fresh start to the Doha Round and condemn rising signs of protectionism during its three-day meeting on the resort island of Bali.

Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the global economic crisis was putting pressure on countries to protect their economies while at the same time underlining the need for greater trade liberalisation.

"Leaders should show their commitment," she told reporters.

"Everybody knows the United States and India are the most important players in terms of setting the tone and providing how far the (Doha) agreement can go.

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"The new administrations on both sides are providing a fresh perspective in how they see this global issue can be solved."

Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean, who is chairing the Cairns Group meeting, said member states wanted to send the new US administration a strong message about the need for open markets.

"India and the US of course are critical to trying to bring about a conclusion to this round," he told reporters at the opening of the group\’s three-day meeting Sunday.

"The engagement at the political level simply can\’t be at the big forum-type engagements that we were unsuccessful at last year in Geneva. We need to find creative new ways for those face-to-face meetings."

The WTO talks, which started at the end of 2001 in the Qatari capital, aim to boost international commerce by removing trade barriers and subsidies.

The Cairns Group, which accounts for more than 25 percent of world agricultural exports, advocates deep cuts to all tariffs and the total elimination of export subsidies.

The Cairns Group is comprised of Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.

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