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Africans say must not walk away from WTO talks

Written by: Staff
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JOHANNESBURG, May 18 (Reuters) Africans must use WTO talks to press for more market access and fairer farm rules, officials and industry analysts today said, rejecting calls for the continent to walk away from the negotiations.

The Doha Development Agenda was launched in late 2001 by the 149-member World Trade Organisation at the urging of rich states with the stated aim of boosting global growth and lifting millions out of poverty.

Negotiators are in the third of a six-week push in Geneva for a draft pact on issues ranging from slashing farm subsidies to opening up industrial goods' and services' markets.

Charities such as Britain's Oxfam say Africa should drop out if the eventual pact does not include a significant overhaul of farm and tariff policies by the world's rich countries.

But African trade experts said this could spell disaster for the continent, leaving it in an even weaker position.

''That's not an option at all. What are you going to achieve by walking away -- you've got to engage the other parties and hammer out the outstanding issues,'' Lesotho Trade Minister Mpho Malie told Reuters in Maseru today.

''We would be worse off if we walked away. Our hope lies in negotiating in a multilateral forum,'' Dipak Patel, Zambia's trade minister, told Reuters by telephone from Lusaka.

''In the absence of that we are left on a bilateral platform, with countries negotiating individually, and that's an area in which we are not very strong,'' Patel added.

MORE REUTERS SI RN1921

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