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Sufficient Political Will For 2010 Conclusion Of Doha: Lamy

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

07 December 2009


World Trade Organization ministers ended their two-and-a-half-day Geneva conference on December 2, 2009 having declared that they want to try to conclude the Doha Round talks quickly, and that they had reached agreement on the extension of a moratorium on import duties for electronic commerce, and on continuing not to bring “non-violation” cases to the WTO dispute settlement process .

Although this conference was not designed for negotiations, almost all ministers said they wanted the Doha Round talks to achieve an agreement soon, a large number of them calling for this to be done by the end of 2010.

These calls were made in formal plenary meetings and in informal working sessions.

“Ministers reaffirmed the need to conclude the Round in 2010 and for a stock-taking exercise to take place in the first quarter of next year,” the conference chair, Chilean Finance Minister, Andrés Velasco, told delegates.

He went on to reveal that: “There was support for asking senior officials to continue to work to map the road towards that point. Gaps remain on substance and there was wide acknowledgment of the need for leadership and engagement on the remaining specific issues over the coming weeks.”

And continued: “There was strong convergence on the importance of trade and the Doha Round to economic recovery and poverty alleviation in developing countries. The development dimension should remain central to the Round and particular attention should be paid to issues of importance to developing countries.”

WTO Director-General, Pascal Lamy told a press conference afterwards that the desire expressed by ministers to conclude the Doha Round quickly has provided the “political energy” to organize work for the coming months.

According to Lamy, this work “roadmap” is to be drawn up when senior officials from members’ capitals come to Geneva in mid-December, with the aim of setting the tasks for the first quarter of 2010.

The date of the end of the first quarter arises because if members can agree on “modalities” — the formulas and other outlines that form the blueprint for the final agreement in agriculture and non-agricultural market access — by that time, they could reach a final agreement by the end of the year.

Asked whether this is realistic, Lamy stated that “my view is that it’s perfectly do-able,” but emphasised that it would be up to members.

Among other decisions made at the meeting, delegates agreed on moratoriums on various tariffs.

With regard to electronic commerce, the ministers agreed not to charge import duties on electronic transmissions. Since the last time they met in Geneva in 1998, the ministers have agreed not to impose the duties from one Ministerial Conference to the next. The latest decision extends the moratorium further until the next meeting, which they have decided to hold in 2011.

A similar extension was agreed with regard to intellectual property. Members agreed not to bring “non-violation” cases to the WTO dispute settlement process — “non-violation” is shorthand for the technical question of whether there can be legal grounds for complaint under the WTO’s intellectual property agreement, even when the agreement has not been violated.


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