• Kyodo

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Japan received strong support Monday from the World Trade Organization, the United States, Australia and Canada for its proposal to help developing countries implement WTO commitments in trade and investment liberalization.

WTO Director General Mike Moore told reporters after talks with Takashi Fukaya, Japan’s minister of International Trade and Industry, that Tokyo’s proposal would help restore the confidence of developing countries in the WTO, which he said is needed if there is to be any early launch of a new round of multilateral trade talks.

Moore and Fukaya held a half-hour meeting on the eve of a two-day session of trade ministers from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Darwin, northern Australia.

U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Richard Fisher told a press conference that Japan “deserves a great deal of credit” for having formulated and promoted new programs for capacity-building and technical assistance.

Japanese officials said similar messages of support were received in Fukaya’s meetings with Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile and Canadian International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew.

Fukaya told reporters that Japan envisages a “strategic and tailor-made approach” to capacity-building.

“We should endeavor to provide cooperation that matches a country’s needs,” he said.

The minister said APEC should assess the needs of its developing country members by November, and then formulate a capacity-building strategy for each country.

After the APEC leaders summit in November, he said, the strategies should be implemented with funds from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and a fund set up within APEC to promote trade and investment liberalization.

APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

Japan has estimated that between $40 million and $50 million will be needed to fund capacity-building projects.

Fukaya said the money would be spent on things such as seminars to transfer the knowhow needed to implement various WTO commitments, to take advantage of the WTO’s dispute-settlement mechanism and to make needed changes in domestic legal systems.

He also cited a need to provide the necessary infrastructure, such as computers.

Moore said capacity-building is crucial to achieving progress in the WTO because “what we have learned over the past few years is we can only go as far as the smallest and poorest of our membership.”

He said he cannot predict with any accuracy when a new round might be launched, calling the situation “still very difficult.”

“We still have areas of substantial difference,” he said. “For Japan the issues of antidumping, investment and agriculture are very important, but other countries have other priorities.”

Moore said APEC, whose member economies account for half the world’s exports, can “provide some modest momentum, but there will be no great breakthrough at dawn.”

“We’re a little bit closer, but we’re not close enough yet. This is just going to be hard work — and again I call on ministers and leaders to show some flexibility with regard to the other person’s point of view.”