BUSAN, South Korea, Nov 15 (AFP): China said today it stood with the developing world in a row over agriculture subsidies that threatens to derail global trade talks and next month's WTO meeting in Hong Kong.
Developing nations have argued that the chief stumbling block in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks is the high level of agricultural subsidies in the United States and the European Union, along with barriers to farm imports.
"We hope that the WTO round in Hong Kong will be of a constructive nature and bring benefits to the members of the WTO, particularly the developing members," Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said in South Korea.
WTO Director General Pascal Lamy and trade ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum held talks here amid growing fears next month's WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong could end in failure.
Li said the finger pointing would not resolve anything, but made it clear that China would stand with developing nations in seeking greater concessions.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday urged the United States and the European Union to "go further" on agriculture to make a success of next month's World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Hong Kong.
"To break the logjam, the EU and the US must go further, within the negotiations, on agriculture," Blair said during his annual setpiece address at the Lord Mayor of London's banquet at the Guildhall.
"We must reduce trade distorting subsidies; we must see a credible end date for export subsidies; we must put an ambitious limit on the number of sensitive products that can be afforded extra protection," he added.
At the same time, Blair called on developing nations to do more to open up their industrial and service sectors to foreign involvement.
Britain currently holds the rotating presidency for the Group of Eight leading industrial powers and the European Union.
During that time, Blair has tried to put the fight against poverty at the heart of the international political agenda, notably during the G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, in July.
But there are concerns Britain's presidency will end without an agreement on relaxing trade barriers, particularly farm subsidies and tariffs in the United States and EU which developing nations claim hinder access to Western markets.
Blair told his audience in the heart of London's financial district that success in Hong Kong would benefit the economies of the developed world and improve the standard of living of billions of people in the developing world.
That could also help lessen the threat from worldwide conflicts as well as global terrorism, he suggested.