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Written by: Staff
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NAIROBI, Apr 14 (Reuters) The United States said on Friday it planned to double its contribution to a global ''aid-for-trade'' initiative and assured African countries the funds would not replace existing development assistance.

The proposal -- introduced into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) global trade talks last year -- would increase the amount of donor funding to Africa to compensate for trade liberalisation on the continent.

The aid would be targeted at regions hurt by deals that lower tariffs and cut into revenues, or where industries are adversely affected by international competition.

On a visit to Kenya to attend an African Union (AU) trade conference, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia said Washington would not be looking to reduce traditional aid flows to raise the new aid-for-trade cash.

''There is no exchange of one for another, rather the U.S.

pledge is to double aid-for-trade between now and 2010 from $1.3 billion to $2.7 billion per year,'' he told reporters.

The United States also plans to increase its overall development assistance to the world's poorest continent, he added.

African nations and campaigners fear the special deal will not necessarily benefit the poor and say any extra money should come free of conditions.

Bhatia said Africa accounted for only 2 percent of global trade and the aid-for-trade programme would help increase the continent's ability to better integrate into the global economy.

He said African nations and other poor countries would be the biggest losers should the WTO's Doha round of talks fail.

''The African continent stands to lose the most from a failed round because a multilateral system offers the most hope for the least developed countries to be treated fairly as they seek to integrate into the global economy,'' he said.

He added there was little political will by developed countries and major emerging economies -- like Brazil, South Africa, India, China and Egypt -- to make progress in the talks.

The Doha round needs to be finished by mid-2007, before U.S.

President George W. Bush's power for negotiating trade deals expires. The talks were launched in 2001 to break global trade barriers and help lift millions out of poverty.

The WTO's 149 members are supposed to agree by April 30 on how to cut agriculture subsidies and tariffs amid bickering between the European Union, United States and Brazil on who should move first to open farm or manufacturing markets.

Bhatia said he doubted the deadline would be met.

The AU trade ministers are meeting in Nairobi to try establish a common position for the WTO talks and discuss trade integration among their different regional economic blocs.

REUTERS CH BST2220

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