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SAfrica says no conclusion to WTO trade talks in 2011

The troubled decade-long Doha round of global trade talks will not be concluded this year, South African Trade Minister Rob Davies said on Monday.

“There is now a recognition that the 2011 window of opportunity as it’s called to conclude the round has now closed — that there will be no conclusion to the Doha round in 2011,” Davies told a media briefing.

“So what has been under discussion is what’s called a Plan B.”

Reduced tariffs on industrial products and agricultural subsidies in richer countries have been key stumbling blocks since the talks were launched by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001 to help poorer countries.

The Doha round, named for the Qatari capital where talks were launched, is aimed primarily at helping developing countries that felt they did not benefit from globalisation spurred by previous trade liberalisation.

But Davies said the developmental focus had been eroded and criticised proposals that would require emerging countries to make more concessions if they have experienced strong economic growth.

“The idea that because some countries have had good GDP growth rates means that they are no longer developing is just not factual, not historical, not correct,” he said.

Ministers will meet in December and attempt to deliver a “much smaller package” in a test of credibility for the WTO, he said.

“The fundamental and primary focus should be to deliver something to the least developed countries.”