Key WTO ministerial begins in Geneva today

Last Updated: Monday, November 30, 2009 - 09:38

Geneva: The Doha trade talks are likely to dominate the three-day WTO conference of 153 trade ministers beginning here Monday, though hardcore negotiations are not
part of the official agenda.

"This 7th Ministerial Conference will not be a negotiating session but the issues that will be taken up — including the Doha Round and how best to advance it — comprise all of the elements that are central to our mission," World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy said in his letter to the global media.

The ministers of all WTO member nations, who will be meeting for the first time since the breakout of the global economic crisis in September 2008, will review the recovery
and also scrutinies the working of the multilateral trade referee.
The Indian delegation is led by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who is accompanied by senior officials of his ministry. Representatives of the Indian industry,
including FICCI, are also here to assist the government in pushing for a deal for opening the world trade.

Sharma, who had said early conclusion of the Doha negotiations were in the interest of the developing countries, would have a series of bilateral meetings with his counterpart from rich and the emerging economies.

Among others, he would be meeting US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton.

The theme of the crucial ministerial is the `WTO, the Multilateral Trading System and the Current Global Economic Environment`. In addition to the plenary session, there will be working sessions on `Review of WTO activities, including the Doha Work Programme` and `The WTO`s contribution to recovery, growth and development.`

Lamy said that the WTO has been able to significantly restrict nations from resorting to protectionist policies in the midst of the global economic crisis,"but with unemployment on the rise, we need to remain vigilant."

He further said, "although the global trade will contract by more than 10 per cent in volume terms this year, protectionism has very largely been kept in check."

A FICCI official, accompanying the delegation said, though the ministerial is not going to focus on Doha issues, "the stakes are so high that the ministers can hardly afford to miss this opportunity". He said if positive signals for reaching a commerce-opening agreement emerge from the Geneva conference, it would strengthen the cause of
multilaterialism.

The WTO ministerial-- the highest policy organ of the global trade organisation -- had launched a negotiating round in 2001 from the Qatari capital. The initial mandate was to conclude the talks by end of 2004 so that new multilateral agreements could govern international trade.

However, wide differences on opening of markets between developed and developing countries have delayed the agreement.

PTI



First Published: Monday, November 30, 2009 - 09:38

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