South Africa has expressed sharp concern over concerted attempts by leading industrialised countries, particularly the U.S. and the European Union (EU), to extract onerous commitments from developing countries as a condition to concluding the stalled Doha Round trade negotiations. "We are deeply concerned over attempts to raise the level of ambition by leading industrialised countries in industrial goods and services that would call for a substantial payment from developing countries," South Africa’s trade and industry minister Dr Rob Davies told IPS. At a time when many African countries are struggling to recover from the raging global economic crisis that has resulted in mass unemployment, it would be "unfair" to expect either South Africa or poorer countries to agree to onerous commitments to provide market access in industrial goods and services, he said. Over the last two weeks, members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) stepped up efforts to accelerate the Doha Round trade negotiations, which entered its 10th year. The Doha Round was supposed to have been concluded by Jan 1, 2005. But stark disagreement between industrialised countries and some developing countries, on one side, and a large majority of developing and least developed countries, on the other, over the level of commitment to reductions in egregious subsidies, high tariffs on farm products and tariffs on industrial products; and to market-opening for services put paid to an early agreement. Recently, former WTO director general Peter Sutherland, who was responsible for concluding the previous Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, issued a report calling on members to conclude the Doha Round this year, failing which the credibility of the global trading system will be irreparably damaged. "The emerging countries must provide substantial market access in industrial goods and services to conclude the Doha Round," he told IPS. Trade chiefs of the U.S. and the EU made similar comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos a fortnight ago. The U.S. and the EU made a strong pitch for "real" and "new" market access in industrial goods and services in emerging countries -- China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Argentina, among others -- to finalise the Doha Round of trade negotiations this year. During the Davos meeting, trade ministers reiterated their commitment to avail themselves of the "window of opportunity" to conclude the Doha negotiations this year. But there remained pointed differences on what ought to be the level of ambition and whether it is proper to demand a huge payment from developing countries to conclude the negotiations. Trade ministers of Brazil, India, China, and South Africa issued a common declaration in Davos maintaining that the final outcome in Doha trade negotiations must hinge on the principle of "reciprocity" that would require proportional commitments between developing countries and developed countries. The EU, for example, said there is "asymmetry" in what they are going to provide in agriculture and what they are going to receive in industrial goods and services as part of the Doha commitments. EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht told his counterparts in Davos that Brussels will need more market access from the emerging countries, regardless of what the mandate stipulated. Despite a clear mandate on cotton, which needs to be addressed "ambitiously," "expeditiously," and "specifically" according to July 2004 framework agreement and the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of 2005, there is no progress because the U.S. wants to address this issue only after there is an agreement in all other areas. While the U.S. and the EU insisted on increasing the level of ambition by bridging the "gap" between members’ positions, the developing countries reminded members that the level of ambition will have to reflect paragraph 24 of the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration which called for a proportional outcome between agriculture and industrial goods.
Source: Terraviva Europa