Plans for trade talks raise fears of more protests

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The Independent Online

Leaders of the seven richest countries yesterday called for fresh talks to agree a new global trade deal, putting them back on a collision course with the anti-globalisation lobby.

Leaders of the seven richest countries yesterday called for fresh talks to agree a new global trade deal, putting them back on a collision course with the anti-globalisation lobby.

At the end of their summit the Group of Eight - the seven plus Russia - said they were "firmly committed" to a new round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks by the end of the year. An attempt to restart talks under WTO auspices failed in December after the main trading blocs fell out over such issues as agriculture subsidies, the environment, labour standards and competition policy. The event was also marred as rallies against capitalism and globalisation turned into riots.

Yesterday the G8 appeared to make a concession to opponents of further trade liberalisation, saying less developed countries should also reap the benefits of a new WTO round by "better addressing the legitimate concerns of its developing-country members, particularly the least developed members".

Jean Chrétien, the Canadian Prime Minister, said the group should give poorer countries access to its markets. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the main target of anti-globalisation protesters, have criticised Western economies for maintaining agricultural subsidies and tariffs that made it harder for Third World nations to compete.

Mamoru Yamazaki, an analyst at BNP Paribas Securities Japan, said the G8 leaders had given a lot of attention to the plight of developing nations. "The real question is what are they going to talk about at the next round and how are they going to start the talks," he said.

The G8 also gave an upbeat assessment of the state of the global economy. "While the pace of recovery varies across Asia, trade is expanding and indeed some countries have achieved dynamic growth."

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