SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Australia and the United States urged China to take a bigger role in sputtering global trade talks as Pacific Rim ministers said Thursday that concluding the so-called Doha round was the best way to sustain economic growth.
The trade negotiations, aimed at forging a global treaty that would slash trade barriers, have been bogged down for two years amid bickering between rich and poor countries over how much to cut farm subsidies and industrial tariffs.
Negotiations restarted this week at the World Trade Organization in Geneva on the basis of two new proposals aimed at bridging differences in those markets.
''All delegates were clearly seized with the urgency of doing whatever we can to bring Doha negotiations to a successful conclusion,'' Australian Trade Minister Warren Truss after a two-day gathering of trade and economic ministers at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
The Doha round ''with its ambitious and balanced outcome provides the best means of sustaining economic growth,'' said a statement issued at the end of the ministers' meeting.
Chinese President Hu Jintao also voiced support for bringing the negotiations to a swift conclusion.
''We must say 'no' to trade protectionism, eliminate trade barriers and move the Doha round negotiations to a comprehensive and balanced outcome at an early date,'' Hu told business executives at a conference on the sidelines of APEC.
But later China was criticized by Truss for doing little to move the negotiations along.
''It would be fair to comment that, in the past, China has tended to take the view that, as a recently ascended WTO member, little or nothing should be expected of China in the way of new concessions,'' he said. ''That's not a position we readily accept.''
Truss said China could play an important role in pressing other countries to ''adopt a more progressive approach'' in the Doha talks.
China, a manufacturing and agricultural producer, has taken a back seat in the WTO talks, partly because it is guaranteed to be a big winner regardless of the outcome.
Experts say that the U.S. and Australia see Beijing's involvement as a way of breaking the dominance of Brazil and India among developing countries, which have resisted cutting tariffs on imports of manufactured goods even as they insist that the U.S. and EU reduce their farm subsidies.
The threat of a flood of Chinese exports is also worrying industries in Brazil and India, who are more defensive of their industries.
''Australia and the U.S. see China as a moderate, developing country that could add more pressure on India and Brazil to take a more compromising approach to the WTO,'' said Malcolm Cook, Asia-Pacific program director at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank. ''If pressure comes from a developing country that's much better than coming from a rich country.''
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab welcomed Hu's comments as an indication of China's willingness to contribute to the trade talks.
''China clearly recognizes the critical stake that it has in a healthy global trading system,'' she said.
AP Business Writer Malcolm Foster contributed to this report.