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Japan Says Doha Conclusion Could Create Growth

Japanese trade minister said Tuesday that successfully concluding stalled Doha Round of global trade liberalization talks would help create opportunities for sustainable economic growth.

GENEVA, (Kyodo) -- Japanese trade minister Masayuki Naoshima told his World Trade Organization colleagues Tuesday that successfully concluding the body's stalled Doha Round of global trade liberalization talks would help create opportunities for sustainable economic growth.

Naoshima, minister of economy, trade and industry, also said "Japan needs to create new demand both inside and outside the country," adding Tokyo will seek an early conclusion to the eight-year old negotiations aimed at enhancing international trade.

He attended a ministerial meeting of the 153-member WTO that started Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.

From Japan, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu also attended the meeting. He repeatedly said Japan will cooperate with other net food importers such as Switzerland and Norway in securing sufficient numbers of "sensitive products" that can be exempted from sharp farm tariff cuts.

Akamatsu was referring to agricultural products on which developed economies could impose high tariffs even after the liberalization of trade to prevent an influx of products from the developing world.

Japan has proposed that rich members be allowed to designate 8 percent of their total farm produce as sensitive products while the WTO's most recent proposal said the ratio must be 6 percent.

The Japanese farm ministry says it believes the most crucial issue to be addressed is whether the WTO can narrow the gap, before Tokyo can make a step forward toward a successful conclusion of the Doha Round, launched in the Qatari capital in 2001 and originally scheduled to be concluded in 2005.

Akamatsu met with David Walker of New Zealand, who chairs the WTO agriculture negotiations, on the sidelines of the three-day ministerial talks. The Japanese minister told reporters after the meeting that Walker said he senses related parties are nearing an agreement over how to handle sensitive products and upper limits on farm tariffs.

"It is important that (we will have) conditions that both exporters and importers could be satisfied with," Akamatsu said.

WTO members now aim to conclude the Doha Round within next year.

The round is aimed at helping development in poor economies through enhancement of international trade. But the liberalization talks have seen no major progress since a ministerial meeting collapsed in July last year due to conflicts between developing and developed members over how they can cut tariffs and export subsidies.