Collapse of Doha round of global trade talks disappointing, says Ban

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and WTO head Pascal Lamy

30 July 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced disappointment at the collapse of the Doha round of trade liberalization negotiations, expressing concern over the effect of the breakdown of the talks on developing nations.

Negotiations broke down yesterday after nations failed to reach agreement on a safeguard that would allow developing countries to raise tariffs temporarily in the face of import surges and falling prices.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said that “success was particularly important at this juncture when the world faces major development challenges,” including climate change, poverty, increasing protectionism, limited progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the current food, fuel and financial crises.

The Secretary-General is “convinced that a successful conclusion to the talks was needed to energize international cooperation toward ameliorating conditions for developing countries to derive gains from trade and investment-led globalization.”

Concluding the seven-year-long round of global trade talks would help boost livelihoods in such nations, particularly the most poor and vulnerable. It would also serve to enhance the world’s economy by eliminating market distortions and reinforcing trade governance, he added.

Regarding the global food crisis, Mr. Ban said that he has called on countries to reassess their policies regarding agricultural imports and exports, urging them to exempt humanitarian food aid.

Speaking today with Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the two leaders said they both are hopeful that talks could restart before the end of 2008.

Following the breakdown of talks, which kicked off on 21 July in Geneva, Mr. Lamy said yesterday that participants had reached agreement on 18 out of 20 topics.

The 19th subject of discussion – the agricultural safeguard – saw some countries calling for a tariff increase going into effect only in the event of a high “trigger,” or large surge in imports, while others urging a lower trigger.

“What members have let slip through their fingers is a package worth more than $130 billion in tariff-saving annually by the end of the implementation period, with $35 billion saving in agriculture and $95 billion in industrial goods,” Mr. Lamy told reporters.

“With developing countries contributing one third and benefiting from two thirds of the overall gains [this would be] a true development round… with a rebalancing of the rules of the trading system in favour of developing countries.”

The collapse of talks “is certainly not going to strengthen the multilateral trading system,” the Director-General said, but added that he hopes the current system is “resilient” and will be able to withstand the challenges that lie ahead.


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