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WTO To Broaden Focus From Doha Round In 2009

by Ulrika Lomas,, Cyprus

30 December 2008

Speaking to the General Council on December 18, following a meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) the previous day, World Trade Organization Director General, Pascal Lamy stressed that although the conclusion of the Doha Round is the multilateral body's key priority for 2009, it is not the only matter on the WTO agenda.

Lamy announced that:

"Since I last reported to the General Council in October, the TNC has held one formal meeting which took place yesterday, and which marked the end of a period of very intensive work aimed at establishing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA."

He continued:

"I take from the discussion we had at the TNC yesterday that there is a collective will to advance the Doha negotiations on all fronts. All Chairs expressed their readiness to provide a forum where you, the Members, can resume negotiations across the board, in Agriculture and NAMA, but also on Services, Trade Facilitation, Rules, and TRIPS related issues to name a few."

"I also take that the entire membership believes that a Doha Development Round which is better adapted to the new trading realities and which responds to the needs and aspirations of all its members and in particular developing countries is worth fighting for. This has been and remains our priority for 2009."

However, the WTO chief went on to state that:

"I also take from the discussions that you all believe that the WTO is more than the Doha Round and that we need to ensure that the Organisation remains relevant and attuned to the wider trading scene. Yesterday we discussed a number of areas where the WTO could work in 2009, including on ensuring a better overview of developments in the international trading environment which are having an impact on the multilateral trading system, and that is also true for Trade Finance and Aid for Trade."

And announced in conclusion:

"At the TNC yesterday we also heard many of you pleading for holding our next regular Ministerial meeting in the course of next year, to take a strategic look at the future and steps to advance the goals of the organisation."

"Yesterday many of you mentioned Sisyphus, the king cursed to roll a huge rock up a hill only to watch it roll down again, and to repeat this throughout eternity. Even the most tenacious minds would be discouraged by the idea of rolling up and down through eternity. I believe that after these last days of discussions and reflections the future looks a bit brighter and I would suggest we rather think of the German poet Goethe when he said 'What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.' Today begins our work for 2009."

Also speaking ahead of the holiday period, the Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, Ambassador Guillermo Valles Galmés, on December 19 circulated new negotiating texts on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies disciplines, in addition to a conceptual “roadmap” on fisheries subsidies.

The Chair stated that the anti-dumping and subsidies texts were based on a new, bottom-up approach, in that draft legal language is provided only in those areas where some degree of convergence appears to exist; while in other areas, the issues are identified and a brief summary of the range of views expressed is set forth.

He further explained that these new documents were intended to provide a platform for further discussions, to which end he revealed his intention to convene an intensive series of meetings in 2009, the first of which to be scheduled for the week of February 2.

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