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The WTO's Doha Round Is Restarting

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

13 February 2007

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told his General Council last week that the Doha Round is back in business: “We have resumed negotiations fully across the board.”

Lamy, in his report to the WTO General Council on 7 February 2007, said that “political conditions are now more favourable for the conclusion of the Round than they have been for a long time”. He added that “political leaders around the world clearly want us to get fully back to business, although we in turn need their continuing commitment”.

Since negotiations collapsed in Hong Kong last year, Lamy has ceaselessly shuttled around the world in an attempt to get major participants to show enough flexibility to allow the talks to restart, and a breakthrough seemed to take place at the Davos Forum two weeks ago.

Addressing the General Council, Lamy said: 'Since the beginning of the year, we have witnessed a number of developments, starting with an increasing level of political engagement and clear signals of renewed commitment to a successful conclusion of the Round. Messages stressing both the importance and the urgency of concluding the negotiations have been coming in from all sides, including the highest political levels. There have also been very welcome expressions of support from business communities and civil society organizations across a broad range of the membership.

'In addition to this renewed political impetus, and maybe as a consequence of it, several participants have been stepping up their discussions at various levels to work on possible areas of convergence. Of course, this is not a substitute for the multilateral process, but, at this stage of the negotiations, it is a vital input and I believe we all understand it is necessary.

'At a recent informal gathering of a number of Ministers hosted by our Swiss colleagues in Davos, there was clearly a renewed commitment on all sides to put the Doha Round back on track. All the Ministers present at that meeting supported a quick resumption of full scale activity in the different Negotiating Groups and declared that flexibilities were available within their mandates. This confirmed my feeling that that we needed to restart the multilateral process fully, to try to reap the benefits of this new mood.'

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