WTO meet ends with no Doha revival

17th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ministers wrapped up a three-day World Trade Organization meeting Saturday with no new direction in sight for the deadlocked Doha Round of negotiations for a global free trade pact.

The chairman statement at the end of the day is expected to express regret at the impasse.

It would also note that member states needed to "more fully explore different negotiating approaches, and that they should "intensify their efforts to look into ways" to overcome the stalemate.

Further, it is to pledge that negotiations would continue based on the progress that has already been achieved.

Launched a decade ago in the Qatari capital, the Doha Round of negotiations has faltered, as developing and developed countries failed to bridge entrenched positions on cutting farm subsidies and lowering industrial tariffs.

With the talks at a standstill, ministers had arrived in Geneva knowing full well that their three-day meeting was not a negotiating session.

During a press conference, EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht admitted that WTO member states needed to "recognise that our credibility has been seriously damaged by our failure to get Doha off the ground."

"We must make sure that 2012 does not become a 'lost year'. I am ready to take the lead and I look to all my partners to join me," he urged.

Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming stressed that Beijing was open to "exploring new pathways and issues" but that in the search for new routes, member states must not lose sight of the fact that the main principle of the round is to lift countries out of poverty through trade.

"This is like mountain climbing, the summit is the Doha Round. But we've hit a roadblock on the way to the top, so we can either do a detour or we can find a new path.

"But while looking for a new path, we must get to the top of this peak and not to another peak," he stressed.

Despite the morose outlook for a trade deal, the organisation was given a boost as Russia secured approval to join.

It is also expected to approve later today the application of another two countries -- Samoa and Montenegro.

Taiwanese economy minister Shih Yen-Shiang said therefore that he was not disappointed with the conference's outcome, claiming that there have been three important takeaways from the meeting.

"The first important point is that ministers have reaffirmed their pledge to continue discussions in the Doha Round," he said.

"They have also pledged to resist protectionism. And third, Russia gaining membership to the organisation after 18 years of negotiations," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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