WTO chief urges 'constructive' push for trade talks

3rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy on Tuesday urged trading nations to take a constructive and higher level approach to coax a deal out of the ailing decade-old Doha round of free trade talks.

Lamy called on the 153 members "to listen to each other and to focus constructively on our way ahead. This is a time, if there ever was one, to think and act systemically," he added, calling for political involvement.

The WTO Director General warned last Friday that the talks on expanding free trade system by cutting subsidies and barriers for farm produce, and reducing import tariffs on industrial goods and services were once again on the brink of failure.

Nonetheless, at a regular meeting of the organisation's ruling General Council on Monday, he acknowledged that members were conscious of the risks of the enduring stalemate and the need for results in 2011.

"No member is ready to throw in the towel in terms of the what we have built so far, nor is anyone ready to let the Doha Development Round drift," he added.

The round of negotiations was launched in the Qatari capital Doha in 2001 primarily to help developing countries that felt left out of the economic benefits of globalisation and the previous round of liberalisation that set up the WTO in 1995.

Since then splits have emerged between rich and poor nations, as well as between economic powers such as the United States and European Union over agriculture, while emerging economies such as Brazil and India have gained weight and China has joined the WTO.

Lamy indicated that new ideas, especially on Non Agricultural Market Access (industrial markets) -- a key sticking point -- had been floated.

"These and other ideas need further discussion, sooner rather than later, including at the political level," he added, suggesting that such talks could not be restricted to negotiators in Geneva.

Next week, the United Nations is holding a major conference in Istanbul on the world's least developed countries, while trade ministers from Asia, the Americas and industrialised nations are also due to meet at ASEAN, APEC and OECD gatherings over the coming weeks.

The WTO is due to hold a regular ministerial conference on December 15 to 17, which is fast turning into a watershed for the Doha Round.

© 2011 AFP

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