On Saturday World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy addressed the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development and said work is continuing in an attempt to move the Doha Round of global trade talks forward.
"The launch of the Doha Round was based on the shared belief that trade can be an engine for development," Lamy said. "And that a more open, more transparent, more equitable rule-based global trading system, more sensitive to the challenges of its poorer members, was necessary to realize this potential."
Lamy went on to say that while trade can be an enabler, a new realization has emerged during the last decade. For trade to fully contribute to sustainable development, growth and job creation, it has to be accompanied by financial resources to address infrastructure and supply-side constraints. It requires Aid for Trade. Making trade possible is one of two twins. Making trade happen is the other twin.
"But if Aid for Trade is important, the big prize lies in the success of the Doha Development Round," Lamy said. "It will address the distortions in agricultural trade caused by unfair agriculture subsidies, reduce tariffs and barriers in industry, deliver on the promise of duty-free and quota-free access for the exports of the world's poorest, and it will facilitate trade by addressing customs red tape. And I could continue the list. After seven years of continuous negotiations, many of these elements are already on the table, but they will not materialize unless we conclude the whole package. And in the meantime the potential benefits of the Round remain in limbo."
Following his remarks, Lamy told reporters he was increasingly inclined to call ministers to Geneva next month to pursue finalizing the treaty. However he says it would be risky to convene a ministerial meeting unless the WTO's 153 member governments are ready to make the compromises needed to finally clinch agreement in the negotiations.
"Convening a meeting that will fail is a risk," Lamy said. "Not convening a meeting, waiting for some time is also taking a risk. I have not yet made a determination but the answer should be reasonably clear by the end of next week."
Lamy said the financial and economic turmoil that has rocked global markets in the past few months had cast the WTO talks in a new light, making it more likely countries would compromise.