Lamy laments slow pace of Doha talks

08:09, July 22, 2010      

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Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization, speaks at the Business Europe summit in Brussels on June 30. Jock Fistick / Bloomberg

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy on Wednesday said that if major countries fail to achieve a trade deal at the ongoing Doha Round of negotiations, it would seriously tarnish the image of the global trade negotiator.

Lamy made these comments in Beijing after his meeting with Commerce Minister Chen Deming.

"If the WTO member nations cannot reach a consensus on finishing the talks before 2011, the reputation of the WTO will be tarnished," Lamy said.

The Doha Round of negotiations, which started in 2001, aims to help poor countries prosper through multilateral trade deals. The talks have been suspended several times due to the divergent views among developed and developing nations on key issues.

Though the WTO member nations have set a timetable for concluding the talks before the end of this year, Lamy did not give any indication of such a deadline in his comments.

Commerce Minister Chen Deming, however, reiterated that China will push for further progress of the Doha Round at the next stage of the negotiations and urged other members also to make substantive efforts in this regard.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the Doha Round. "The member nations should actively grasp these opportunities, and strive for breakthroughs on top of the existing proposals," Chen said.

Agricultural subsidies and trade barriers related to industrial goods and services are still the main issues of contention between developed and developing economies at the Doha Round.

The third meeting of the WTO General Council will be held on July 29-30 in Geneva, Switzerland, and most of these issues are expected to come up for discussion.

The WTO official had recently indicated that developed nations were keen on ending the Doha Round impasse.

Lamy is actually sending a message during his China visit that he is seriously concerned about the prospects of the talks, said He Weiwen, standing council member of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies.

"Obviously, he gave a hint that the talks cannot end this year as planned, and unfortunately, he is not sure whether this will be solved in another year," he said.

The US government and businesses have criticized China for not doing enough to bring the Doha Round to a successful conclusion.

Deputy US Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said last week "China has come up short and continues to leave the US and its global trading partners waiting for more serious engagement".

Yao Jian, a spokesman for the ministry, however, strongly refutes these claims. "During the past negotiations, China has made commitments that are in line with its own economic development. The real block for the Doha talks is that some developed nations are against the achievements we have made in the past negotiations, and are making unreasonable demands for more concessions from developing nations," Yao said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

"This is nothing but trade protectionism," he said.

The Chinese government has submitted over 100 proposals and made "substantive" contributions and commitment on tariff reduction in previous negotiations, Yao said.

China has agreed to cut the tariffs on agricultural and industrial products by 30 percent and open up 11 more services sectors apart from the 100 sectors it has already agreed to open up.

"There is no reason to blame China," said He.

Source: China Daily


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