By  on December 10, 2004

GENEVA — World Trade Organization chief Supachai Panitchpakdi said Thursday at a special session on the Jan. 1 end of the quota system on textiles and apparel that it “will not only contribute to increasing trading opportunities, but will also be of major systemic importance.”

Supachai, the WTO director-general, said the completion of the 10-year quota phaseout “will put an end to a special and discriminatory regime that has lasted more than 40 years,” and that the demise of the system “is on track.”

His remarks came near the end of a year when industry associations from some of the WTO’s 148 member countries raised concerns that much of the developing world is not prepared for the competitive surge that is likely to follow lifting restrictions on trading. Some experts have said the fragile economies of many smaller developing nations could be shaken by the transformation.

Supachai said he understood the concerns of poor countries such as Mauritius, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, he added that the WTO’s mission was not to address those issues. The concerns of members “can probably be best responded to by institutions that can make appropriate means available with a view to reducing the burden of the adjustment costs,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are two institutions trade experts have said could step in to assist poor countries.

With the WTO close to accomplishing the end of the quota system, Supachai said he believes the current Doha round of trade talks would continue smoothly and wrap up by the end of 2006 with major breakthroughs in liberalizing trade in agriculture, goods and commercial services.

“I have found a firm determination at the political level to press vigorously with the negotiations and ensure that there is no wasted moment in 2005,” he said.

Linnet Deily, deputy U.S. Trade Representative, said at the WTO that with the U.S. presidential election over, finishing the Doha round is a top priority for the Bush administration.

“In the U.S. today the picture is much clearer,’’ Deily said. “We continue to be ambitious and aggressive. We see no obstacles to progress.”

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