WTO head warns of Doha paralysis threat to trade body

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A paralysis in Doha free trade talks is putting at risk the functions and achievements of the World Trade Organization, the chief of the trade body Pascal Lamy said on Tuesday.

With member states not only repeatedly missing deadlines to agree on a global free trade pact, but also failing to agree on a downsized accord by December, Lamy urged countries to "reflect seriously" on what is at stake.

"What we are seeing today is the paralysis in the negotiating function of the WTO, whether it is on market access or on the rule-making," Lamy told 153 member states of the trade body.

"What we are facing is the inability of the WTO to adapt and adjust to emerging global trade priorities, those you cannot solve through bilateral deals," he added.

Launched in 2001 in the Qatari capital, the Doha Round of talks for a global deal have stalled amid persistent disagreements between developed nations and emerging countries on tariff cuts for industrial goods or reductions in subsidies paid to domestic farming communities.

Amid an impasse, WTO member states were initially hoping to kickstart talks by first agreeing by December on a small package dubbed LDC-Plus that includes salient issues for the poorest states.

"However, I have to share with all of you what I sense is a collective assessment that the LDC-Plus package as we framed it in May is not taking shape as we would have wished," said Lamy.

Member states must reflect on the way forward for Doha talks, he urged, warning that the paralysis "risks overshadowing the achievements in other parts of the WTO functions, such as monitoring, surveillance, dispute settlement or even Aid for Trade."

© 2011 AFP

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