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OSAKA (Kyodo) Former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills called Wednesday for advancing the liberalization of global farm trade, at the start of a three-day meeting of senior officials from 25 Asian economies.

The meeting is to give impetus to the Doha Round of trade-opening talks under the World Trade Organization.

“Agriculture is key because it is connected to alleviation of poverty,” Hills said, urging developed WTO members in Asia to improve market access for farm products made by developing countries and to eliminate subsidies and other supportive measures to domestic farmers.

“Ministers have called the Doha Round ‘the Doha Development Round’ because more than any other round that preceded it, it is focused on alleviation of world poverty,” she told reporters, noting that 3 billion people — about half the world’s population — live on less than $2 a day on a purchasing-parity basis.

“Agricultural tariffs are five times higher than tariffs on industrial goods and account for most of the distortion in agricultural trade,” Hills said. “Yet of all the issues in the agricultural negotiations, market access is the least developed.”

Hills, known as a tough trade negotiator in Japan and elsewhere, is now chairwoman of Hills and Co. International Consultants in Washington.

She voiced hope that developing countries, including China, Brazil and India, and developed economies will soon bridge the gap over the market access issue.

The Osaka meeting, being held under the auspices of the Asian Development Bank, is aimed at coordinating policy options for developing economies in Asia in areas that include agriculture, service trade, market access and trade facilitation in the runup to a key WTO ministerial meeting in December in Hong Kong.

“Whether our world can achieve the ‘big bang’ that could come from a successful Doha negotiation will depend entirely on whether we have the political will to bridge our differences so that we can realize the significant poverty alleviation, increased global prosperity and enhanced stability that Doha offers,” Hills said.

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