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Wed 27 Jan 2010 12:09 PM

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Request to make Arabic fourth WTO official language

Cost of translation means Arab proposal is running against resistance.

Request to make Arabic fourth WTO official language
ARABIC SCRIPT: Arabs are pushing for the WTO to adopt Arabic as its fourth official language.

Arab members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are pushing for Arabic to be made a fourth official language of the global trade body, diplomats and officials said Tuesday.

But the heavy cost of translation, interpreting and extra printing involved in adding Arabic to the three current official languages – English, French and Spanish – means the proposal is running up against resistance.

"There has been a formal request made by Kuwait and members are engaged in consultations now," WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said.

Any move to add Arabic as an official language would probably prompt a request for Chinese, and maybe even Russian – aligning WTO language policy with the United Nations.

"Well maybe Russian is a bit premature," said one ambassador, referring to Moscow's on-again off-again access process with the WTO.

Adding three languages would cost about 45 million Swiss francs ($43 million) a year, the ambassador said – no small amount given a total WTO budget in 2009 of 189 million francs.

As a result the Arab group will need to lobby hard to convince other members of the virtues of the proposal

The WTO's 153 members include a dozen Arab countries, and another six are applying to join, including Iraq, Algeria and Libya.

The Arab group is also pushing for the Palestine Liberation Organization to get observer status as a prelude to membership when the occupied Palestinian territories gain statehood. (Reuters)

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

AJ 10 years ago

Let's waste more paper; let's spend more of peoples money on irrelevant issues!

Billy 10 years ago

The world business language is English. If a person cannot speak, read and understand English why are they members of the World Trade Organisation? Save all this ridiculous waste of time, effort, money, resources etc and have only one language - English.

sultan 10 years ago

some people love wasting time, money and energy, they just love it!!! PEOPLE, DO SOMETHING USEFUL FOR MANKIND!!!