Hope sprung anew on creating a rule-based global trade regime with the two-day informal meeting of 35 trade ministers agreeing to resume discussion on the stalled negotiations in less than two weeks’ time.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO), formed in 1995, sets and administers rules that govern trade between member nations, with a view to encouraging free and fair trade by setting common rules and define exceptions.
What is the WTO?
Formed in 1995, the WTO sets and administers rules that govern trade between member nations, with a view to encouraging free and fair trade by setting common rules and define exceptions. Above all, it is a negotiating forum.
What has it done so far?
The first set of multilateral trade talks, called the Uruguay Round, concluded in 1994 with an agreement at Marrakesh in Morocco, which resulted in the formation of the WTO. The next round started at Qatar, Doha in November 2001, focuses on opening up agricultural trade. This is the Doha Round, which has been deadlocked.
Why should the Doha Round matter?
The Peterson Institute of International Economics estimates that by concluding the Doha Round world trade would raise by between $180 billion and $520 billion annually.
What is holding the talks up?
India and other developing countries have insisted that there should be enough scope to protect subsistence farmers and small industries from being swamped by cheap imports from the United States and the European Union.
How have talks Moved?
The fifth ministerial conference in Cancún, Mexico, in September 2003, was intended as a stock-taking meeting where members would agree on how to complete the rest of the negotiations. But the meeting was soured by discord on agricultural issues, including cotton, and ended in deadlock on the relationship between trade and investment.
Is there a deadline?
The original January 1, 2005 deadline was missed. After that, members unofficially aimed to finish the negotiations by the end of 2006, again unsuccessfully. Further progress in narrowing differences was made at the Hong Kong conference in December 2005, but some gaps remained and negotiations were suspended in July 2006. Efforts then focused on trying to achieve a breakthrough in early 2007. The last round of substantive discussions in July 2008 remained inconclusive.
The chief negotiators and senior officials will resume the talks in Geneva from September 14.
“We have reached an agreement to intensify negotiations. It has been a breakthrough in this meeting. If I can use this expression, the ‘impasse’ in resuming the negotiations has been broken,” Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said at the end of the meeting here.
“There was a unanimous affirmation of the need to expeditiously conclude the Doha Round, particularly in the present economic situation. All agreed that there was a need to resume talks in Geneva,” said the chairman’s summary issued at the end of the meeting. “The development dimension and the need to address the concerns of less developed countries was emphasised,” it said.
The journey, however, may not be without roadblocks.
Brazil, the coordinator of the G20 alliance of developed and emerging economies, said the developing countries have made concessions and developed countries should not put on the table new demands that could stall negotiations.
“They ( developed countries) pay lip service but make extra demand,” Brazilian External Affairs Minister Celso Amorim.
The talks had collapsed in July last year after an impasse between developing and developed countries over issues concerning agriculture and application of restrictive measures.
Amorin cited the example of insistence on having zero duties on specific sectors like automobile, textiles and chemicals.