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Wednesday, 02 March 2011

December deadline of Doha round to boost negotiations

The conditions have never been better for the conclusion of the Doha round than they are now, said an expert round in Brussels on Thursday. During a lunch conference organized by the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), former WTO and DG Trade officials shared their ideas with an audience of EU officials and lobbyists. Making the end of the year a definite deadline for trade negotiations will increase pressure and prompt an outcome, said Stuart Harbinson, former senior advisor to WTO director general Pascal Lamy. “There is a positive atmosphere in Geneva to get an agreement now”, he said, adding that 2012 and most of 2013 are expected to be “dead” periods in terms of agricultural negotiations. Pressure is high, as the need to legally finalize agreements after they have been made pushes the negotiation deadline forward to July. Former EU ambassador to the US Hugo Paeman referred to the WTO procedure as an important blockage point in the negotiations. As in the GATT which preceded the WTO, trade agreements in the can only be made in a single package without the option of different speeds in sectoral negotiations. As it were, differences in agricultural negotiations in 2008 stalled advances in other sectors where agreement had already been reached. A successful conclusion of the Doha round could thus be achieved by reforming the negotiation modalities, even though speakers acknowledged that a reform would be unlikely to happen before the end of the year. Roderick Abbott, deputy director general of the WTO until 2005, took a more pessimistic stance, saying that differences between the negotiators had not become easier but rather more difficult. Not only do the major trade blocks have differences among each other, interests of developing countries are also widely diverging. If China and the US find a bilateral agreement, countries like Brazil or India should not be expected to accept it without question.

Source: CTA