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Lamy Urges Progress On Doha In 2013

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

13 December 2012

The Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Pascal Lamy agreed with members that Doha Round negotiations should continue to focus on "achievables," to maintain the positive momentum seen during the second half of 2012.

In his report to the General Council on December 11, 2012, Lamy recalled his comments to WTO members on December 7, where he urged that while governments' expectations and ambitions "should be kept in check... negotiators must not fall short of delivering on a credible basket of issues [in time for the Bali Ministerial on December 3-6, 2013] that would signal confidence that the rest of the Doha agenda can be addressed in due course."

The Doha Development Agenda, launched in 2001, seeks to achieve a global agreement to cut trade-distorting agriculture subsidies, phase out tariffs on industrial goods, open trade in services, facilitate customs operations, open trade in clean technology, adjust anti-dumping rules, and offer duty-free and quota-free access to the exports of the world's poorest countries. However, talks stalled when the economic crisis hit, and WTO members have in recent times informally agreed to return to the negotiating table to progress the Doha Agenda at a pace that recognizes the present crisis-time challenges.

Lamy praised members for making progress during the year and noted that despite a slow start to negotiating activities in early 2012, progress picked up during the second half of the year. Lamy reported to the General Council "encouraging signs of re-engagement," and progress on trade facilitation (customs procedures), on some agriculture items, on Special and Differential Treatment (provisions which give developing countries special rights), and on dispute settlement issues.

Lamy stressed that it is critical that during the first quarter of 2013, "this momentum and renewed sense of engagement is translated into concrete proposals. Our credibility - your credibility - in the next phase will depend on our ability to make tangible progress on specific issues as they mature."

"The activities of 2012 have contributed to build some momentum," he added. "You have put on your negotiating caps again. And we cannot afford to lose this momentum. We must build on it. This requires us to step up our engagement and act in a timely and responsible manner to ensure that all proposals are given the right level of attention. For this to take place, together we need to make sure that proposals are put on the table in good time, to allow for discussions and for the regular process to take place."

"In other words, we must avoid introducing last-minute proposals that have not been discussed in the appropriate bodies first," Lamy continued. "We need to go back to our well known principle of 'no surprises.' We need to work towards what is reasonably doable. Members should be realistic in their demands, take into account other members’ red lines and stay clear of what are known to be unattainable objectives."

Lamy said the tone was one of caution, but also of realism and determination. "I saw that members remain committed to achieving a credible outcome at MC9 [Ninth Ministerial Conference]. In one word, the discussion was encouraging, as I said in closing the meeting.”

TAGS: tax | law | tariffs | World Trade Organisation (WTO) | agreements | trade

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