Australian Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, and Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, last week announced that Australia will more than double assistance for trade to developing countries through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

This year the Australian Government will provide the WTO $2.5 million for development assistance activities, up from $1 million last year.

The WTO Doha Development Agenda Global Trust Fund will receive $1.75 million, up from $1 million last year and $500,000 the year before. The Global Trust Fund provides practical assistance to some of the world's least developed countries, enabling them to take part in and benefit from the WTO Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations.

"Australia is strongly committed to the successful conclusion of the Doha negotiations as soon as possible, as was highlighted at the recent Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting in Bali earlier this month," Mr. Crean said.

"The WTO continues to attract membership and it is fundamentally in our interest to strengthen its unique structure as a strong and effective rules-based organisation.

"The recognition of the value of our efforts is that countries continue to want to join the WTO. It also underlines the importance of securing progress in the current round of world trade talks," Mr. Crean said.

"The provision of this funding will help developing countries become active participants in, and reap the full benefits from, the multilateral trading system and the global economy," Mr. McMullan said.

Open trade is an essential ingredient to both economic recovery and future global prosperity. Therefore it is even more important during the global recession to ensure a successful conclusion to the Doha Round and to support international trade.

WTO Members must take advantage of renewed political momentum in the Doha Round to conclude the negotiations as quickly as possible to stimulate the global economy.

It is also critical that the world resists protectionist tendencies and keeps markets open for trade and finance. World leaders made commitments to this end at the G-20 London Summit.

In addition to increased support for the Global Trust Fund, the Australian Government will provide $750,000 to the WTO Standards and Trade Development Facility. The facility helps boost international trade by assisting developing countries to analyse and implement international standards on food safety and animal and plant health.

Mr. McMullan said "the contribution will encourage the WTO to work even more closely with our development partners in Asia and, in particular, the Pacific Islands, which face unique challenges because of their small size and remoteness from global markets."