Doha round negotiations might restart in a matter of weeks

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Logo of the World Trade Organisation

The head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has called for trade negotiations to restart on the Doha Development Round, citing the need for the round to be concluded to help the global economy. Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the WTO, speaking at a United Nations conference, said "In the weeks to come, and depending on progress made by the negotiators, I am ready to call Ministers to Geneva to try and close the issues which remain open so that the scheduling process in both areas can commence."

The Doha round of talks, named after Doha, the capital city of Qatar, where it was inaugurated in November 2001, focuses heavily on creating a fair system of trade for the benefit of developing countries, in particular for trade in agricultural products.

The last major negotiations collapsed in July, after nine days of talks, over issues of agricultural trade between the United States, India, and China. Since then, a series of small negotiations have been held. Lamy called for a ministerial level conference, which would involve ministers from member states.

Do you think an agreement on the Doha round will help the global economy?

The WTO believes that a completed deal will restore confidence in the global economy and improve the global outlook. Lamy said, "A failure of the Doha Agenda would have serious implications on the ongoing efforts by all developing countries to address their challenges and in particular to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. The reasons why we must conclude the Round are visible to all of us and are becoming more critical by the day as the economic and financial outlook continues to deteriorate."

Since the collapse in July, there has been a willingness by member states to hold negotiations again. The United States has been willing to hold negotiations even though the U.S. presidential election will be held in November and a shift in policy on the Doha round might occur as a result of the election.

Huang Rengang, a senior diplomat at China's WTO mission, told Reuters, "The problem now is that often in the negotiating rooms you find that some members are obsessed with market access rather than development, are obsessed with inventing new terms like 'key emerging countries'".