TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec09/03)
15 December 2009
Third World Network

G20 calls for urgent action on the Doha Round
Published in SUNS #6825 dated 1 December 2009

Geneva, 29 Nov (Kanaga Raja) -- The Group of 20 (G20) developing countries at the World Trade Organization on Sunday called for urgent action on the Doha Round, stressing that all developed and developing countries should be ready to negotiate for a conclusion of the Doha Round and respecting the mandate.

In a communique issued after their Ministerial gathering just before the seventh Ministerial Conference got underway Monday afternoon, the G20 said that there is urgent need to translate political statements into concrete engagement in Geneva in order to accomplish the shared objective of concluding the Round in 2010.

In the Group's view, the only way to achieve this objective is to seek convergence on the basis of the draft modalities texts of December 2008.

The Group reaffirmed its unity and its readiness to continue to be a driving force in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) agriculture negotiations.

It reiterated the centrality of agriculture in the Doha Round, saying that agriculture will determine the level of ambition of the DDA.

The Group noted that international trade has been seriously impacted by the world economic crisis, and that the crisis has shown the risks of all forms of protectionist practices, including the substantial trade-distorting subsidies provided by developed countries.

"Without the means to afford stimulus packages or bailout programmes, developing countries are disproportionately affected and bear the consequences of any erosion of confidence in the stability of the multilateral trading system," it said.

The crisis has also highlighted the importance and value of a development-oriented and rules-based multilateral trading system.

Concluding the Doha Development Round would result in a triple win: (I) strengthening of the confidence in the multilateral trading system; (ii) guarding against the rise of protectionism; and (iii) contributing to boost the global economy while reducing its asymmetries.

Referring to its meeting with the coordinators of the African Group, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, CARICOM, the Cotton-4, the G33, the NAMA-11, the Least Developed Countries and the Small and Vulnerable Economies, the G20 said that the Ministers welcomed the exercise of assessment among developing countries and highlighted the solidarity demonstrated by developing-country groups throughout the negotiations.

The Group emphasized that the full integration of developing countries into the multilateral trading system will only be achieved if the WTO system reflects their development needs and concerns.

To that end, said the G20, they underlined the importance of concluding the Doha Development Agenda by 2010 and that this results in placing development at its centre.

The Ministers agreed that, in order to achieve convergence, there is need for a process that would lead to a narrowing of differences on remaining issues within the next few months. The Ministers also agreed that there should be a multilateral opportunity, early next year, to evaluate progress made, identify remaining obstacles, and explore ways to successfully conclude the DDA before the end of 2010 in accordance with its development mandate.

The Ministers of all developing-country groups emphasized the importance of concluding the Doha Round and their joint commitment to achieving an ambitious and balanced outcome that delivers on the development objectives of the Round in accordance with the mandate.

At a media briefing following the G20 Ministers' meeting on Sunday, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, referring to the G20 Ministerial Communique, highlighted some aspects of the G20's positions, namely, a reiteration of the centrality of agriculture and the impact of the global economic crisis on trade especially in the developing countries.

There was also emphasis on the need to translate political commitments into concrete engagement, he further said, adding that the G20 also stressed the primacy of the multilateral process. He also reminded that development must be at the centre of the Doha Round.

"No one can deny that we are in a very serious situation," he told journalists, adding that developing countries have no other alternative but to hope. Developing countries do not have the treasuries that the rich countries have. They have to rely on the possibilities "slim as they are" of having a successful Doha Round, he explained.

The G20 is certainly alive, and "we want to keep this round alive and we want to conclude it early and successfully. By successfully, we mean friendly to development," he said.

Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said that the main message coming from all the developing-country groupings is an early and successful conclusion of the Doha Round. The cost of delay is really high for developing countries, she added.

Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said that it is time to take forward the Doha Round to a successful conclusion; successful by upholding the development dimension, which is the core of this round, so that the historical imbalances in the multilateral trading regime are corrected.

He further said that it is important in the G20's considered and collective view that the present Round is expeditiously concluded. It is the developing countries that have much at stake, most to gain and much to lose from the success or otherwise of the present round of the WTO negotiations.

In response to a question on bilateral negotiations, which has been of interest to the United States, Minister Amorim said "I haven't seen any progress," and the basic reason is because "we (Brazil) haven't been able to hear from the United States what it precisely wants."

He cited calculations made by the WTO and by several US-based international institutions that said that several developing countries including Brazil are making more market opening (in terms of applied tariffs) in non-industrial market access (NAMA) than the United States.

So, why should they (the US) ask for more, he asked.

The bilateral negotiations cannot continue to be a sort of shadow theatre that just delays the real negotiations, which has to be multilateral, he added. +