WTO leaders know the cost of Doha failure, Lamy

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: World trade organization

Multilateral trade is tilted against developing countries, said
World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general Pascal Lamy
yesterday, but negotiations towards a conclusion to the Doha trade
round are seventy per cent complete.

Lamy's comments in an address to a debate hosted by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Geneva on how to make businesses more competitive in a fast-changing global economy, come two weeks after the deadline for a conclusion to the round was extended to the end of this year. "We are near a possible conclusion of a big multilateral negotiation, the main purpose of which is to try and rebalance the rules of the multilateral trading system, which honestly developing countries consider as being tilted against them. I think they are right,"​ he said. He said that the aim is to finish the negotiation at the end of this year/beginning of next - but a breakthrough is needed. "Hopefully this will be in the coming months, so that road to conclusion is open…"We have got good political energy, the leaders know now what the huge cost of a failure would be."​ His viewpoint was echoed by ITC executive director Patricia Francis, who said: "Businesses in developing and transition countries face tremendous odds in today's international trade environment. "China and India are set to transform the world trade picture of the 21st century. The developing world has to sell smarter."​ The Doha Development Agenda, launched in November 2001 in the Qatari capital, Doha, aims to free global trade and has a special focus on achieving concrete benefits for developing countries. The final round of talks was suspended last July, since WTO members refused to budge on certain issues. The issues that remain on the table - and have indeed been there for some time - concern agricultural subsidies, agricultural tariffs, industrial tariffs, services, and market openings. Although there has been progress, Lamy said it is "not to the stage of finding the right balance between numbers, and that is what we are after."​ If the round is concluded, a rebalance will be achieved that will enable a more development-friendly system, with less agricultural subsidies, lower agricultural tariffs and more favourable treatment for developing countries - the likes of China, Indian, Paraguay, Senegal and Brazil, which are not in the same league at the moment. These countries will then be able to transfer what is a possibility into a real added trade flows, where they can exploit the comparative advantages. Lamy also stressed that while the WTO is in the business of making things possible, the ITC is in the business of making things happen​ - that is, putting in place strategy, diagnosis, linking, and networking, so business initiatives benefit. The trade for aid initiative in intended to bridge the gap between theory and real possibility. "Proclaiming freedom is one thing - making sure it is incarnated is another thing,"​ said Lamy. Fundamentally, as trade dimension has to be inserted into national development strategies, and there remains work to be done on this. Moreover, developing countries need to draw up a set of priorities. Do they start with harbour roads, or electrical grids or food safety, or industrial safety?

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