POOREST NATIONS FAVORED

‘Quad’ clinches trade framework

Kyodo

Japan, the United States, Canada and the European Union reached a basic accord Friday to provide preferential trade treatment to the world’s poorest nations, trade officials said.

Trade officials who attended a senior working-level meeting of the four major economies said the “framework agreement” thrashed out Friday is provisional and must be endorsed by their home governments.

The preferential trade package consists of four categories — zero tariffs and the elimination of import quotas, technical assistance, the extension of the transitional period for implementing

trade accords, and more transparency in the WTO decision-making system, the officials said.

Envoys from the four quadrilateral trade partners plan to present the preferential trade package to World Trade Organization Director General Michael Moore after getting the green light from their respective governments.

Moore plans to ask other developed countries to contribute to the proposal, turn it into a WTO secretariat plan and get the approval of all the 135 WTO member states at a WTO General Council meeting May 3, the officials said.

With regard to the zero-tariff scheme, the framework agreement calls for the tariff-free acceptance of “essentially all” products from the poorest nations in the markets of the developed countries.

However, actual implementation of the zero-tariff scheme is likely to take time as national trade laws in the developed countries must be changed to accommodate the program.

The “quad” negotiators were also reluctant to specify the products from the poorest nations that would be entitled to preferential trade treatment because of “politically sensitive” products, such as textile for the U.S. or some agricultural products for Japan.

On technical assistance, the negotiators pledged to step up their efforts in this field.

They agreed to take the interests of developing countries into account in implementing trade accords reached in the 1986-1993 Uruguay Round of global trade talks.

The four major economies may allow an extension of the moratorium for these countries in implementing the Uruguay Round accords if their requests are reasonable, the officials said.

The officials also pledged to make the WTO more transparent by providing more information to the nations that are not privy to the WTO decision-making process.