Annan says trade talks in Qatar must tackle needs of developing nations

Annan says trade talks in Qatar must tackle needs of developing nations

The current round of trade negotiations taking place in Doha, Qatar, must genuinely address the needs of developing countries in order to lift people out of poverty, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

"The new round of negotiations you are about to launch must be a 'development round' in more than just name," Mr. Annan said in a message to the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO). "I would urge negotiators to ask themselves, at every step in the road, 'How can we resolve this problem in a way that will enable countries to develop, and enable people to escape from poverty?'"

With the world economy facing the risk of a recession, the Secretary-General called for restored confidence in open markets. "Now more than ever, we need to resist the siren voices of protectionism, and work out multilateral solutions to our problems," he said.

While stressing the importance of eliminating trade barriers, Mr. Annan noted that developing countries must also achieve the technological, social and economic capacity to take advantage of market opportunities. "They need to invest in education, in infrastructure and institutions," he said. "The international community can, and must, help them to do so."

The Secretary-General also pointed to the auspicious occasion of China's entry into the WTO - "an event of historic proportions in the world trading system." He expressed hope that the numerous developing and transition countries still eager to join would be able to do so "through a transparent and inclusive process."

Mr. Annan welcomed strengthened cooperation between the UN and the WTO, especially in advance of next year's UN International Conference on Financing for Development. "I encourage you to keep up this spirit of creative partnership," he told the delegates meeting in Doha.

Mr. Annan's message was delivered on his behalf by Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Also addressing the forum, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, said that participants must ensure that the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights does not stand in the way of access to medicines in poor countries. "The stakes are high: the lives and well-being of millions will be affected as a result of WTO members reconciling their divergent views and positions, and formulating an agreed Ministerial Declaration on the issues surrounding intellectual property and public health/access to medicines," she said.