Founded in 1995, the World Trade Organization creates the laws that govern international trade between its members and helps them settle trade disputes. The WTO’s main goal is to promote free trade, which it says brings economic prosperity.
Formal negotiations to take place at the WTO’s headquarters. Informal talks are scattered around the city.
Most ministers expected to arrive by Thursday, June 29. Formal and informal meetings projected through July 2.
The WTO’s Doha round of trade liberalization negotiations, launched in Qatar’s capital in 2001, sets out to boost the global economy by lowering trade barriers, with an emphasis on increasing exports from developing countries, which rely heavily on producing farm products.
The talks were originally projected to finish at the end of 2004. The WTO’s 149 members now hope to complete a deal by the end of this year, in time for the US “fast-track” approval process which expires in mid-2007. Without that measure, which requires an up or down vote without amendments, it would be much harder to gain the approval of the US, the world’s largest trading power.
The WTO hopes that countries will commit at this meeting to exactly how they plan to open up their farm and manufacturing markets to foreign competition. The gathering comes six months after a failed ministerial conference in Hong Kong, where countries made only minor agreements and pushed the tough decisions back until this summer.
A breakthrough still looks unlikely as rich and poor countries have been at a standstill for months. (AP)