Stalled talks need a push

Updated: 2011-12-09 10:18

By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)

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Stalled talks need a push

The WTO headquarters in Geneva. [Provided to China Daily]

China will make all efforts for successful trade negotiations

Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Pascal Lamy is on record as saying that 2011 was the "window of opportunity" for the Doha Round of global trade talks, but now that window seems to be closing without any concrete results.

Irrespective of what Lamy expected when he made his remarks, almost everyone else involved seems convinced that there is little hope of the talks being finalized anytime soon.

At the Davos Forum, held in Switzerland in January, two dozen trade ministers were in high spirits and, in response to calls from Lamy, pledged to finalize the Doha trade deal this year through a series of concessions and trade-offs.

However, while the developed regions and nations, which play a significant role in driving the talks, are fully occupied with their own economic woes, the Doha Round, aimed at improving the prospects for developing nations, has been left out in the cold.

"It's sort of a hope to bring an end to the talks, but the facts show there is no possibility of making it happen this year due to political reasons," said Shen Jueren, a former vice-minister of commerce, at the China and WTO forum in mid-September.

"The success of the Doha talks depends greatly on political willingness, especially that of the developed nations. Given that many nations are facing the challenge of economic recession and the US is fully engaged in preparing for the upcoming presidential elections, they are unlikely to expend greater efforts on Doha," he explained.

Liu Guangxi, an economist and senior official of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, agreed.

"We would probably consider resuming the talks after the presidential elections in the US. But it can neither be 2011, nor 2012, therefore 2013 might be the earliest opportunity," Liu, who is a WTO expert, said. "However, I cannot agree that the Doha Round will die. It's still on."

The Doha Round - also known as the Doha Development Agenda - was launched in late 2001, with the objective of opening up the world market and helping poorer countries benefit from global trade.

However, the talks have been regularly suspended for the past 10 years because major players, including the United States, the EU, India, Brazil and China, have been unable to agree on a set of rules for the agricultural sector, industrial goods and services.

"There is now a recognition that the 2011 window of opportunity to conclude the round is closed," Rob Davies, the South African trade minister, said.

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