HONG KONG, Dec 8 (Reuters): When global trade leaders converge on Hong Kong next week for a World Trade Organisation meeting, some 10,000 anti-globalisation protesters are expected to be waiting for them to try to press home their demands.
The host city, whose fortunes were built on free trade, is mounting its biggest security operation ever to avert violence like that which marred past conferences in Seattle and Cancun.
Hong Kong, one of the world's leading financial centres, has been gearing up for a year-and-a-half to smooth the way for the 300 ministers, 6,000 delegates, 3,000 journalists and 2,000 NGO representatives who will be on hand.
"There is no need to be concerned," said Denise Yue, Hong Kong's permanent secretary for commerce industry and technology.
Despite regular protest marches, like one for democracy that attracted tens of thousands on Sunday, the city hasn't seen large-scale street chaos since leftist riots rocked the then British colony in 1967.
Still, police say the chances of disorder during the WTO meeting are high and rate the risk of a terrorist attack as moderate, though they say they have no information about any specific threats.
AFP adds from Hong Kong: India and Brazil, two of the biggest and fastest growing of the developing countries, may hold the key to a deal at crucial World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade talks here next week, the chair of the meeting said today.
Hong Kong industry chief John Tsang said the two developing giants would be asked to make trade-offs to move the EU from an impasse on cuts to agricultural subsidies, a major obstacle to clinching a global trade deal.
"What we are asking is for some of the more advanced developing economies, such as Brazil and India, to open up a bit more (on industry and services) before the EU can move on agriculture," Tsang told reporters.
Another AFP report from Washington said: World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz appealed Wednesday to WTO members "to rewrite the rules of an unfair trading system" when they meet next week and so lift more than a billion people out of desperate poverty.
Trade rather than aid is the best way to ensure schooling and healthcare for the many whose hopes for a better life are being held back, he said in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington.
"Unless the people of Africa and other poor countries have access to markets to sell their products, they will not escape poverty or be able to give their children a better future," he said.
Wolfowitz, who has prioritised Africa since leaving the US Defense Department to take over the World Bank in June, highlighted crippling barriers to poor nations' exports erected in the developed world.
Bangladesh is charged the same amount of tariffs on its two billion dollars of exports to the United States as France, whose US exports are worth 30 billion.