Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr08/11)
Accra, 21 Apr (Martin Khor) -- UNCTAD XII has kicked off with a opening ceremony on Sunday afternoon and a high-level segment on Monday morning, both of which featured the political leaders of Ghana, Brazil and the Secretary General of the UN.
Monday's session, UNCTAD secretary general Supachai Panitchpakdi and
WTO director general Pascal Lamy also spoke, as did
The global food crisis was one prominent theme, with both UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Supachai calling for an increase in production in developing countries. Citing what some of the political leaders had said, Supachai concluded: "Developing countries can't only import food but have to expand their local production."
Reference was also made by many speakers on the need for the WTO's Doha Round should conclude, although some also stressed that its outcome must have genuine development content.
most forceful reference to the Doha Round was made by Kamal Nath, the
Indian Commerce Minister. "What is most important is the content
of the DDA," he said. "At the end the content must lead to
healthy economies in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean,
Several delegates have been speculating in the corridors whether there will be a WTO mini-Ministerial in May. About a week ago, it was a common belief that such a Ministerial would start on 19 May.
some senior WTO diplomats arriving at
One diplomat also pointed to the many statements made at the informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting last Thursday cautioning against rushing into a "horizontal process."
At his speech to UNCTAD XII on Monday, Lamy made a brief reference to the current WTO negotiations, stating that a breakthrough is possible in "late May."
A senior trade official from an Asian capital was of the view that a Ministerial in May is looking like a more remote possibility. According to his assessment, the Chairs' texts on agriculture and NAMA modalities may be delayed to the first or second week of May, and this would in turn delay the senior officials' meeting that is to precede the Ministerial.
In his opening speech on Sunday, Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva said that massive agricultural subsidies in developed countries had made victims of poor nations. He spoke against the protectionism of the North which perpetuates dependency of the South.
On Monday, he returned to this theme, saying that free access to agricultural markets is vital and he called for the elimination of massive Northern agricultural subsidies that do so much harm to developing counties, "that is why we are fighting for success in the Doha Round."
He added that the multilateral trade system must be fair and that persistence of subsidies stops all attempts to overcome North-South imbalances. He also said that South-South trade should not be restricted by FTAs, which is a reference to a clause in the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) between the EU and ACP countries, by which the ACP countries have to provide the EU with the same preferences that they give to other countries (including developing countries).
The original objectives of UNCTAD had not been fulfilled, said Kufuor. The North has displayed half hearted efforts and cynicism at assisting development, the South is now sceptical (of the North's sincerity) and both must now have a common vision. On problem was the developing countries not having the opportunity to protect their infant industries and farmers.
He said the Doha Round was launched to reform the multilateral trading system, to shift from market access to a development agenda, but unfortunately the negotiations are on-going. We need fair market access, special and differential treatment, reduction of Northern subsidies, South-South cooperation, aid for trade, ODA and FDI. If the international community defers solutions, it will condemn itself to more intractable development problems.
He concluded that the turbulence in the petroleum and food markets must be tackled on an "emergency footing."
Ban Ki Moon said this was a crucial time, with fresh thinking and approaches needed. The crisis of development takes extreme forms, mentioning firstly the sky-rocketing prices of food, as the prices of staple foods increased by more than half in the last six months. The ban on rice or wheat exports by some countries threatens to exacerbate the problem.
The food crisis can trigger multiple other crises, warned the Secretary General. The causes are many, including the switch to biofuels, high costs due to oil price increases, and financial speculation. The world has consumed more food than it produced and this is unsustainable.
humanitarian action is needed, but in the long run production must be
increased, said Ban, mentioning the need for a Green Revolution in
He also called on wealthier nations to rethink their old policy on agricultural subsidies. "If we can't reduce subsidies when the prices are high, then when will we do so?", he asked.
Secretary General Supachai, who facilitated Monday's high-level segment
on the theme of African trade and development, said the challenge was
for the emergence of a new paradigm in Africa, he said rhetoric was
not needed and economic theories had failed to produce results in
Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa said
Lamy waned of rising protectionism in Europe and the
He added that intensive technical discussion has yielded progress towards a breakthrough, that is possible at the end of May. Success required a balance between trade distorting subsidies, agricultural tariffs and industrial tariffs.
Nath announced that
the high-level segment, Ban said we need to face threats like climate
change, the food crisis and to have a fair multilateral trade system.
The window for decisive action is closing fast and we must take bold