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Minister to attend informal WTO meeting in Egypt

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton leaves tomorrow for an informal World Trade Organisation meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

The meeting is the latest in a series of meetings where about 25 trade ministers try to identify difficult issues in the Doha Development Round negotiations and to work out solutions for them.

The last informal meeting was hosted by New Zealand after the OECD meeting in Paris, France in May, and the next one will be later next month in Montreal, Canada.

A full WTO ministerial meeting will be held in Cancun, Mexico in September.

Mr Sutton said the informal ministerial meetings were an important way of refining the issues facing ministers at the full WTO ministerial meetings, where all 145 members would attend.

"It's difficult to negotiate effectively in a committee of 145, but it does take all ministers present to reach agreement on anything."

He said he hoped the Cancun meeting would be the halfway mark in the Doha Development Round negotiations, but progress had been slow so far, mainly because of European Union inflexibility on agriculture.

"The Doha round is at that stage of a negotiation where no one wants to be the first person to blink, so there's precious little evidence of a willingness to compromise. We're working on the basis that the negotiations will reach an inevitable close."

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