April 29, 2011
“Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations has received a new booster dose. Time is ripe to conclude this deal in this year by making some forward-looking moves on industrial goods and other negotiating subjects. The future of the global trading system will become weak if the multilateral trading system remains without concluding the Doha Round,” said Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International.
Mehta was speaking about the importance of the new text of Doha negotiations which was released by the WTO Director-General on 21st April.
“The importance of the multilateral trading system lies in its three essentials which are non-discrimination, gradual trade liberalisation and commitments to adhere to multilaterally-agreed rules on the part of WTO Members,” he added.
While releasing the text as Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee, WTO’s DG Pascal Lamy said: “For the first time since 2001 Members will have the opportunity to consider the entire Doha package, including all market access areas as well as the entirety of the regulatory agenda.”
“These documents will leave no-one in any doubt about the value of what is on the table. For the WTO to remain efficient, our disciplines need updating for trade today as well as for the next generation,” Lamy added.
On the controversial issue of special safeguard mechanisms on which India has a major stake, the agriculture text noted: “What was needed beyond that (analytical discussion) was problem solving engagement among Members to design a mechanism capable of being used to address cases of disruptive import surges while not disrupting demand-induced trade.”
There remains a clear political gap on further tariff cuts on specific industrial products. India, Brazil and China indicated specific sensitivities over sectors such as chemicals, and electrical and electronic products. However, they also indicated a number of sectors where they could envisage participation, depending on the specifics of the treatment.
Cross-border movement of temporary workers is an issue on which India and many other developing countries have special interest. The text noted that commitments and offers are still insufficient. “A positive outcome on this issue was very important to achieve a balance in market access negotiations in services,” noted the Chairman of the negotiating group on services.
CUTS welcomes these positive movements and urge the WTO Members to bridge political gaps to conclude the Doha Round. In the meanwhile, an intellectually stimulating debate on the value of trade multilateralism and the impretative of concluding the Doha Round has erupted at the CUTS Trade Forum.
While many have argued that it is difficult to deal with 21st Century trade issues with a 20th Century instrument, Manuel Teehankee, Ambassador of the Philippines to the WTO, participating in this debate, aptly summarised the value of the Doha Round: “If things are still right, then what will happen is that the Doha Round ends up taking more time, if it is downright buried … that will be a bad sign of things to come … or even worse perish the thought of its being buried while still alive.”