WTO holds first ministerial meeting in four years

Geneva, Nov 30 (DPA) The World Trade Organisation (WTO) begins its first ministerial meeting in four years Monday aimed at reviewing the work of the 153-member group.

While trade negotiations are not on the agenda of the three-day gathering in Geneva, the stalled global trade round is likely to play a major role, following a call by world leaders for an agreement on the issue by the end of 2010.

Instead of considering a trade deal, WTO chief Pascal Lamy sees the meeting as providing “a platform for ministers to review the functioning of this house”.

Security barriers have been erected around the conference venue and police reinforcements have been called in from other parts of Switzerland amid concerns about demonstrators attempting to disrupt the meeting.

An anti-capitalist protest in Geneva Saturday erupted into violence, with cars set alight and shop windows smashed.

The meeting in Switzerland comes a decade after a WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle aimed at driving forward global free trade was engulfed by violent protests.

This week’s conference is being held amid signs that global trade is recovering from its biggest contraction since the Great Depression.

The WTO member states represent about 95 percent of total global trade. Ministers last met 2005 in Hong Kong. A gathering scheduled for 2007 was postponed because of lack of progress on the trade round launched in Doha in 2001.