FROM SCRATCH NEWSWIRE

SCAVENGING THE INTERNET

WTO TO DECIDE SOON ON NEW DOHA TALKS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 20, 2008

First Posted 14:58:00 11/20/2008

by Alan Raybould – Reuters

SIEM REAP, Cambodia – WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said on Thursday he would decide rapidly whether to call a ministerial meeting to pursue a Doha trade agreement but played down a Dec. 8 deadline suggested by a Brazilian minister. PASCAL LAMY - 'HOCUS-POCUS AND ABRACADABRA JUST AS WELL ... THAT OUGHT TO WORK

He said ministers from some of the world’s poorest countries meeting in Cambodia this week on trade and aid matters were pushing for a quick deal because they feared protectionist groups would use the global economic slump to push their agenda.

Leaders of the G20 group of rich and emerging economies pledged on Saturday to try to agree on the outlines of a new accord in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha round by the end of the year to help deal with the financial crisis.

In an interview with Reuters, Lamy acknowledged the political impetus but said he needed to be sure there would be broad agreement on technical matters before calling ministers to the WTO headquarters in Geneva.

“I haven’t yet taken a decision but I know I have to take it rather rapidly,” he said, adding he would be back in Geneva on Friday morning working on plans.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said this week that a meeting would need to be called by Dec. 8 if a deal was to be had by the end of the year.

Lamy played down such deadlines.

“They all have their own notion of timing because they all have their own constraints. We know we don’t have much time left,” he said. “The technical options should be on the table 10 days before the ministers negotiate them.”

He said the economic crisis made it all the more crucial to get a deal quickly, especially for poor developing countries wanting market access for their goods.

“Given the economic crisis, the percolation of the financial crisis into the economy, they believe what’s on the table will be in danger if it only happens six months, a year, a year-and-a-half from now,” Lamy said.

He gave the example of tariff ceilings set in existing trade agreements, which are typically higher than the actual tariffs imposed by countries.

“Their fear is that with the economic crisis biting, protectionist lobbies will look for more protection and the applied tariffs will be raised.”

The Doha round was launched in the Qatari capital seven years ago to free up world trade by cutting farm subsidies, and reducing tariffs on agricultural and industrial goods, with a clear mandate to help developing countries.

A meeting of ministers in July came close to a breakthrough but faltered because of differences between the United States and India over measures to protect subsistence farmers in poor countries from a surge in imports.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘BUSINESS INQUIRER’ (Philippines)

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