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Timely talks on deadlocked Doha Round
Session will tackle future of multilateral trade and the WTO
By: Louise Hallman
If the Uruguay Round of trade talks, held by GATT, the predecessor to the WTO, had seemed slow in reaching its conclusion at seven and a half years – twice its original schedule – then the current Doha Round must be glacial, with the Ice Age possibly returning and freezing progress altogether.
Set up to try to “improve the trading prospects of developing countries”, the talks were first started over eleven years ago in November 2001, covering over 20 areas of trade policy, including the main sticking point of agricultural subsidies. But in July 2008, the protracted Doha Development Agenda yet again ground to a halt.
Four years on since the last round of talks in Geneva, despite numerous attempts from some politicians and trade officials in both developing and developed nations, and the seemingly unending optimism of WTO Director-General, Pascal Lamy – who declared he expected a return to the negotiating table as recently as the beginning of May 2012 – the talks have still not yet resumed, much less resolved the issues that caused the initial stalling and collapse.
It is against this frustrating deadlock that over 30 international trade experts from almost 20 countries gather this week in Salzburg, Austria at the Salzburg Global Seminar to discuss the future of the multilateral trading system and the WTO.
Over the coming three days, the participants will tackle a number of issues, not only how to resume talks and overcome the stumbling blocks to the Doha Round, but also how can the WTO ensure that its functions that have proven to work well – such as dispute settlement – can continue even if the Doha Round completely fails, and is it possible to pursue and launch negotiations on other issues, such as investment and other Singapore issues, without having concluded the Doha Round?
Looking at the particular stumbling block of lack of political will – an issue he blamed also for the stalling of the Uruguay Round, over the end of which he presided – Peter Sutherland, former Director-General of the GATT and WTO, and current chairman of Goldman Sachs International, will give a keynote speech on Monday afternoon; Generating Political Support and Leadership will open the two and half day session.
Current Deputy Director-General to the WTO, Rufus Yerxa will also speak in the session, on the topic The Way Forward: Revival? Reform? Retreat? Representatives from the permanent missions to the WTO from the EU and Mexico, Angelos Pangratis and Maria Cristina Hernández-Zermeña, will offer their insights into alternative strategies, looking at the regional, bilateral, plurilateral and sectoral agreements being sought by countries as a means to avoid the Doha deadlock. What will these additional trade agreements mean for the WTO? If the ‘spaghetti bowl’ of trade agreements continues to grow, will it later require rationalization? And will this need for rationalization prompt a renewed commitment to work at the multilateral level?
Other issues to be addressed in the session will include the relationship between trade, aid and developing countries, trans-Atlantic trade relations, the impact of shifts in the global economy on multilateral trade relations, prospects for trade facilitation, investment and competition rules, and what businesses want out of trade negotiations and the WTO. With WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy reporting to the WTO General Council on May 1, 2012 that on the Doha Round, “my conversations over the past few weeks with Ministers and delegations have provided me with a sense that Members wish to continue to explore any opportunities to gain the necessary traction and make tangible progress soon,” the Salzburg Global Seminar session couldn’t prove more timely.
The session will start at 3pm on Monday, May 21, 2012 and conclude in the afternoon Wednesday, May 23.
Key comments will be tweeted from the session by @salzburgglobal on the hashtag #SGStrade.
Related to Salzburg Global Seminar Session:The Future of the Multilateral Trading System and the World Trade Organization - May 2012
posted on: 21 May, 2012
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