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South Africa Warns Of Doha Split

by Robert Lee,, London

21 April 2011

South Africa's Minister of Trade and Industry has warned of the potentially fatal obstacles faced by the Doha Round, caused by allegedly unfair and unreasonable demands from developed countries.

Speaking before parliament on April 19, Rob Davies noted the series of major hurdles encountered whilst renewed efforts are made to conclude the Doha Round this year. The Round, chaired by the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Trade Negotiation Committee, is due to circulate new draft texts before the commencement of the Easter recess, on April 21. It is hoped that an agreement on these texts will be reached by June/July, with a view to completing negotiations by the end of the year.

However, concerns have been raised about the slim window of opportunity in which an agreement can be reached, and the WTO's director general Pascal Lamy has been vocal in his insistence that a middle ground be reached, fostered by compromise proposals.

This issue of compromise was raised by Davies, who attributed the difficulties currently besetting negotiations to "efforts to place new demands in the areas of industrial tariffs and services on emerging economies without any indication of meaningful reciprocity".

He said: "These unfair and unreasonable demands threaten to undermine the delicate balances achieved in processes to date - balances which we have argued are already tilted against developing countries and therefore threaten to fundamentally invert the developmental mandate that launched the Doha Round".

Davies also stated the South African attitude towards the type of agreement necessary. "We remain convinced that the only kind of multilateral agreement worth supporting must be one that deals with imbalances and inequities that disadvantage developing countries and South Africa will therefore continue to add its voice to those who insist that a developmental agenda must remain at the centre of the negotiations".

Davies also took part in the recent Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) Business Forum 2011, which took place in China from April 13-14. In a joint statement issued by the BRICS nations following the summit, the importance of Doha for the future of world trade was again emphasized. The BRICS countries were encouraged in this statement to seek common ground while reserving differences and working together to expand economic and trade co-operation, and oppose protectionism in trade and investment. To this end, a comprehensive and balanced conclusion of Doha is sought.

TAGS: Russia | South Africa | India | tariffs | World Trade Organisation (WTO) | trade treaty | China | agreements | trade | Africa

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