Commonwealth leaders discuss trade

Valletta, November 26:

Commonwealth leaders were locked in discussions here today on a ‘road map’ to world trade for poor countries and achieving closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Pakistan’s prime minister Shaukat Aziz said the leaders from 53 mostly former British colonies were facing a ‘packed schedule’ for the duration of the closed-doors talks, which will end tomorrow.

Discussions were largely focused on achieving closer cooperation on fighting terror, and with World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks looming in Hong Kong next month, “trade and where does the Doha Development round leave us.” Aziz said governments must ensure that liberalisation of markets should be achieved gradually.

“We need to have a road map and a timetable, to transition from where we are to a more free and open market,” he said, “If the curtain falls overnight then countries will go into severe pain. And the Caribbean countries and the smaller states have made this point. The advantage of discussing these at the Commonwealth level is that we flesh out our ideas, we understand each others’ position and perhaps try to prepare before we get into the Hong Kong round.” “Migration as an issue has different points of view. There are those who feel we must allow movement in a relatively free way and others who naturally have concerns. We will discuss it in the next 48 hours or so.”