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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Anti-Davos' Wants Trade to Aid Poor

BANGKOK, Thailand -- A global summit in Bangkok this week will try to help the poor take advantage of the spread of free trade that some developing countries fear only benefits the rich, officials said Friday.

Rubens Ricupero, secretary general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD, said the meeting should bridge the gap between the big powers, the developing world and non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, over trade policy.

The week-long UNCTAD meeting starting Saturday is a forum for the developing world and will in some ways be the opposite of the gathering of global business and political leaders, held annually in Davos, Switzerland, at the end of January, he said.

"We are not rivals of Davos," Ricupero said a news conference. "In fact, we are in some sort of way the 'Anti-Davos' in the sense that we are an organization that is very close to the poor, the deprived and the marginalized."

"If we are worthy of giving a voice to those who do not have a voice, we are honored by this," he said.

Set up in 1964 to promote development through trade, UNCTAD's role has changed in recent years with the founding of the World Trade Organization - the forum for all negotiations and rule-setting on tariffs and trade.

Critics of "globalization" - the creation of single world markets with global rules - say UNCTAD has been weakened by the emergence of the WTO.

Many NGOs oppose the WTO - a stance that exploded into violence on the streets of Seattle during the trade body's ministerial meeting there last December.

But governments of most of the 190 nations in UNCTAD see the agency as complementary to the 135-member WTO, whose rules they see as protecting them against strong-arm tactics by the United States and the European Union.

"I see great compatibility and complementarity between organizations like the WTO and UNCTAD," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi said at a news conference.

He said globalization was "inevitable" but nations had the chance to influence how it happened and what rules were adopted.

Ricupero said UNCTAD would be a forum to get stalled global free trade talks moving after the WTO's attempts to launch a new "Millennium Round" of world trade talks collapsed amid differences between the U.S. and the EU.

"I see some other dimensions in the conference ... how to help in the healing process after Seattle, particularly from the perspective of developing countries."

Ricupero said he would strive to ensure NGOs and activists, some of whom were behind demonstrations in Seattle, were included in the trade talks process.

Thai activists with political and ideological differences with the Thai government have vowed to break through police barricades near the conference.

Protests have also been held in Philipinne capital Manila and a group of calling for UN help to resolve problems in Kashmir, India, on Friday began a hunger strike in Bangkok.