Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 29, 2008

Nov 28, 2008 1:19 PM


Talks to unstick the Doha Flag Raising Ceremony The United Nations flag is raised outside the Doha Sheraton Convention Centre, as representatives of the Government of Qatar turn over the facilities to United Nations authorities in preparation for the opening of the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus. Representing the Government of Qatar - Mohamed Abdullah Al-Rumaihi Deputy Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs -  Representing the United Nations - Shaaban M. Shaaban Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management - Sha Zukang Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairsworld trade round have made some headway, ambassadors to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said on Thursday.

New Zealand ambassador Crawford Falconer, who chairs the WTO negotiations on agricultural products, said that countries have begun to budge from their positions in the wake of a high-level political push for an agreement.

“I have seen some material change, but not all the things I would like to have seen have happened,” he told reporters after an evening meeting at the WTO’s Geneva headquarters.

US President George Bush and other leaders have been pushing for a breakthrough in the seven-year-old WTO talks as a means to bolster the troubled global economy.

A new WTO agreement would cut subsidies and tariffs on a wide range of traded goods and cross-border services, prying open food, fuel, transportation and other markets and therefore encouraging global economic activity.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has been looking for signs of movement in technical talks between diplomats before inviting trade ministers to Geneva to hammer out a deal in agricultural and manufactured goods – the two main areas of the Doha accord.

Talks earlier on Thursday skated over sensitive issues such as the levels of US subsidies on cotton, and a controversial facility to let poor countries shield subsistence farmers during crises, envoys said.

“We had more positive discussions than we had before,” Brazil’s WTO ambassador Roberto Azevedo said of those talks.

A dispute about the “special safeguard mechanism” for farmers caused a meeting of ministers in July to fail, with India squaring off against the United States and other countries who said the facility could actually close off existing markets instead of opening up new ones.

Azevedo told journalists that in Thursday’s talks on that mechanism “there wasn’t exactly convergence or agreement, but there was no clear-cut rejection.”

“You learn in these negotiations to read between the lines,” he said. “There was certainly more engagement, more interaction than there was before.”

Diplomats that a ministerial meeting next month could start around December 13, though no dates are expected to be set until Sunday or later.

Estimates of the benefits of the WTO accord vary widely. A recent study from the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute said more than $US1 trillion of trade was at stake.



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