CIAA warns of missed opportunity at WTO Hong Kong meet

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags International trade World trade organization Ciaa

The draft WTO Hong Kong ministerial declaration is considerably
less ambitious than the stated original objectives of the meeting,
according to the European food industry.

CIAA, the Confederation of the EU food and drink industries, believes that current talks have the potential to secure future industry investments in Europe and allow the industry to compete more effectively on foreign food and drink markets.

But the success of the current Doha round of WTO trade talks is dependent of achieving the ambitious objectives of the original declaration.

It is vital, said the organisation, that a comprehensive set of rules in agricultural trade is negotiated, leading to a balanced and coherent agreement throughout the three pillars of the negotiation.

"It is disappointing that what was supposed to be a milestone in the process of the Doha Round and lead to agriculture modalities, is now most likely only to set a work programme with definite deadlines for the completion of this round,"​ said CIAA president Jean Martin less than two weeks before the start of the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference.

CIAA also warned of attempts to agree on advance commitments on a few elements of the agriculture dossier without evidence that essential other aspects of the agricultural negotiations are effectively addressed. For example, it said that it would not be acceptable to agree on an end date for the phasing out of export subsidies if no agreement has been reached on how to address and discipline the other main export support instruments (export credits, food aid, STEs).

Trade ministers will aim to conclude negotiations on the WTO global trade agreement on agriculture and services this month. The negotiators have already missed their initial deadline of 1 January 2005 for a final agreement on the Doha Round, which began in 2001.

For the EU food and drink industries, a good deal in Hong Kong in December would be a comprehensive set of rules in agricultural trade, leading to balanced and coherent reforms in agricultural policies. But significant obstacles must still be overcome for this to happen.

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