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WTO boss wants deal on Doha

Staff Writer

WORLD Trade Organisation (WTO) director-general, Supachai Panitchpakdi, has called on member governments to make efforts to strike a deal on a framework accord in the Doha D

evelopment Agenda.

In a statement Panitchpakdi this week said WTO members were supposed to reach compromise in the next two weeks and fulfill the Doha agreement where trade ministers set January 2005 as the deadline for the completion of negotiations.

Panitchpakdi made the statement as delegates began talks on a draft decision for the general council’s end of July meeting.

Drawing on months of negotiations and recent converging positions among the WTO’s 147 member governments, Panitchpakdi stressed that the text is “a first draft whose purpose is to provide a basis for further negotiation among members”.The text includes “frameworks” in key areas such as agriculture and industrial market access.

These form a first of three steps towards final agreement.

Once adopted, the frameworks will focus negotiations on fuller “modalities” that include completed formulae for tariff reductions that would then be applied to detailed commitments on thousands of products as well as new or revised rules.

Last week the WTO’s general council issued draft guidelines for future global trade negotiations.

The move came ahead of the deadline at the end of the month.

The general council said “considerable differences of view” persisted but that with “hard work and goodwill” agreement should be possible.

The draft subsumes cotton under the broader agricultural negotiations, while promising to address the concerns of African cotton producers “ambitiously and expeditiously”.

On agriculture, the draft incorporates the European Union’s pledge to scrap all export subsidies by an agreed date alongside the elimination of other trade-distorting export aids.

The new draft compromise also proposed that the talks should cover the elimination of the “trade distorting element of export credits and export credit guarantees by reducing the repayment period” to 180 days.

The document marked the first time a compromise has been put forward since the collapse of the Fifth Ministerial Meeting in Cancun in September last year.

Talks in Cancun faltered amid a serious rift between rich and poor nations on one contentious issue – agriculture – the backbone of economies in the developing world.

Deadlock in Cancun revolved around four “Singapore issues” pushed by Japan and the EU.

The Singapore issues included how countries treat foreign investors and standards for anti-monopoly and cartel laws.

They also include greater transparency in government purchasing, which might help foreign companies win public sector business and making items such as customs procedures simpler to facilitate trade.

These issues were first mooted at an earlier meeting in 1998 but were passed to Cancun at the Fourth Ministerial Meeting in Doha in 2001.

Analysts at the time said the collapse of trade talks in Cancun, Mexico, was a blow to the Doha Development Agenda.

Meanwhile, the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute will next week hold a workshop with civil society organisations in Zimbabwe on globalisation and international trade.

The meeting will be held between July 27 and 30.

The workshop draws participants from trade and economic activists from various organisations in the country.

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