Kaoru Yosano, minister of international trade and industry, told Canadian counterpart Sergio Marchi on Monday that Tokyo is ready to deal flexibly with other World Trade Organization members on an approach to the upcoming round of multilateral free trade talks in 2000, according to ministry officials.

The two trade ministers were meeting at MITI prior to key quadrilateral trade talks that begin today.

Yosano reiterated that Japan cannot accept a sector-by-sector approach in any way because it will fail to balance the interests of each member, MITI officials said.

Yosano recognized Canada’s stance on a “cluster approach,” which combines comprehensive and sectoral issues, and expressed interest in discussing variations on it, the official said after the half-hour meeting ended.

Marchi insisted ministers participating in the quadrilateral talks come up with an approach that is “manageable and digestible” as well as attractive enough to garner a consensus from the developing countries, the official said.

In regard to WTO leadership, Yosano told Marchi Tokyo still backs Thailand’s candidate, Supachai Panitchpakdi, despite the ongoing deadlock in the selection process.

Japan and many other Asian nations support Supachai, but the United States and some European nations favor New Zealander Mike Moore, who is regarded as the leading candidate.

Canada is backing one of its own former trade ministers to lead the organization.

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