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WTO's Rich Members Must Help Poor States

China's Commerce Minister, Bo Xilai, says the World Trade Organization's underdeveloped member states deserve preferential treatment in any new global trade pact.

Speaking in Hong Kong today (Wednesday) to delegates from WTO's 149 member nations, Mr. Bo said millions of farmers in underdeveloped countries face a disastrous future unless the group's richer members grant them special treatment.

The Chinese official put his own country in the category of those worthy of preferential treatment, including the lifting of any quotas and tariff barriers that limit access to markets in wealthy states.

Mr. Bo says, even though China's industry is advancing rapidly, its farm sector is still that of a developing nation.

Two days into this week's six-day conference in Hong Kong, key delegates say they will need more time to reach an agreement on liberalizing world trade. The U.S. Trade Representative (Robert Portman) and Brazil's Foreign Minister (Celso Amorim) said the trade group's 149 members should set a new deadline for agreeing on how to implement trade goals set four years ago, at an earlier WTO conference in Doha (Qatar).

However, a 19-nation group of agricultural exporters (the Cairns Group) warns that the WTO's credibility will be damaged if global trade talks drag on and are not completed by the end of next year.

The World Trade Organization originally had hoped agreement on how to implement a global trade deal could be reached in Hong Kong this week, but the talks have been deadlocked by the dispute between rich and poor nations over market access.