Saturday, April 1, 2023

WTO chief not sure on Doha endgame

African countries and other parts of the developing world that have hoped for an endgame on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Doha Development Agenda (DDA) talks will be disappointed because even the body responsible for the negotiations is not sure when they will be concluded.

The WTO top man, who is visiting Botswana, revealed he was not sure when the negotiations will bear fruit as the big players are dictating terms and playing the blame games.

“We have no deadline. It is substance that drives the negotiations,” Pascal Lamy, the WTO Director General said in response to The Telegraph questions at a press conference in Gaborone on Monday.

“We have done 80 percent of the negotiations. They are also dependent on give and take,” he added.
The talks that have been going since 2001 are an attempt to level the playing field of international trade while lowering trade barriers.

The remaining 20 percent of negotiations is been blocked by the world ‘big elephants’ that include US-European Union bickering and Japan and Asians on the other side.

“This is where the big game of the negotiations is taking place. That is why Botswana is pushing for endgame,” stated Lamy.

“The endgame is between the two fishes. When will the negotiations be concluded? I do not know. It is an ongoing process.”

The negotiations are stalled because big countries are using egos therefore putting issues of concessions aside.

However, previously it was said that large economies, including the US had made ‘painful concessions’ although industrial tariffs, fisheries and services remain thorny.
The DDA was launched by ministers of WTO member countries about eight years ago in Doha, which is the capital of Qatari.

The following meetings after the launch took place in 2003 in Cancun, 2004 in Geneva, 2005 in Hong Kong, 2006 in Geneva and the Davos one in 2007.

The talks then collapsed in 2008 and to re-start the negotiations eludes the negotiators and attempts to resume them in 2009 had not borne fruit.

“However, we remain optimistic that the negotiations will eventually resume and conclude to the satisfaction of the members,” added Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, Botswana’s Trade and Industry minister.

Big players in the talks include Brazil and India (representing the G20 group of developing countries), the EU, the US, Australia (representing the Cairns group of agricultural exporters) and Japan (representing the G10 group of net agricultural importers).

Sticking points in the negotiations are agricultural market access, agricultural subsidies, industrial market access and services.

It was counter accusations when it came to these items with the US accusing the EU of wanting to maintain protection levels on its farm products.

The progress of the negotiations will be gauged at the next G-20 meeting in Seoul in November where all the concerned players meet.


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