HONG KONG, Dec 13: The sixth World Trade Organization Ministerial Meeting started here on Tuesday amid protests by anti-globalization protesters as WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy urged member countries to be cool and open-minded and prepared to take risks.

Despite tight security measures, dozens of protesters entered the convention hall where the inaugural session was being held and forced Mr Lamy to raise his voice during his address.

The protesters chanted slogans of ‘Development yes, Doha no’ and unveiled a banner which said “No deal is better than a bad deal”.

Outside, riot police used pepper-foam to hold back the protesters. Earlier in the day, some protesters leaped into the Hong Kong harbour after a march by some 2,000 people against trade liberalization.

Chairman of the World Trade Organization’s Hong Kong Ministerial Conference, John Tsang, said at the inaugural session that the Doha Development Agenda negotiations were arguably the most complex and difficult yet undertaken. Agricultural produce aside, the margins for tariff reduction were by definition the narrowest following eight earlier rounds. Key negotiating areas, most notably the reduction and elimination of agricultural subsidies, were politically sensitive to many members.

He said: “Members of WTO agreed to take up this challenge and pressed on vigorously with the negotiations because we recognized the pace of global interdependence. We recognized too that domestic economic reform cannot be implemented effectively without the cooperation of other participants in the global economy.”

Mr Tsang said: “The 44-page document captures the progress we have made so far. We can see clearly where possible convergences exist, where divergences lie, and where timelines must be set in order to give direction to the process after Hong Kong.

“The draft text provides a reasonable foundation; our task must be to build on it, to raise the level of agreement in various negotiating areas across the board and to agree on a clear roadmap for work in 2006.