Asia ready for WTO deal but not at any price: analysts

TOKYO, July 17, 2008 (AFP) – Asia’s economic giants, under pressure to yield ground in key global free trade talks next week, are ready to open their markets to spur growth, but not at any cost, analysts said. Many of the region’s economies rely heavily on foreign trade to power their growth and the breakdown of the WTO talks has encouraged Asia’s growing “noodle bowl” of bilateral trade pacts, experts say.

Asia’s emerging economic powerhouses say they support trade liberalisation, but only if developed countries offer meaningful cuts to farm subsidies.

The Doha Round of global free trade talks, launched in 2001, faces a series of make-or-break meetings from July 21 when ministers from 30 economies gather in Geneva in a last-ditch bid to strike a deal.

Developing nations are pressing for greater access for their agricultural products to industrialised markets. In return developed countries want a better deal for their industrial exports in the developing world.

India has continually insisted that it will not sacrifice the interests of its millions of subsistence farmers to clinch a Doha Round deal, prompting criticism from Washington.

From India’s point of view, “opening doors to manuf