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You Can Chat On-Line With Pascal Lamy Today

by Amanda Banks, Tax-News.com, London

18 October 2006


WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy will today hold an on-line 'chat' session with up to 500 questioners on the prospects for saving the becalmed Doha Round.

In July the five year Doha Development Round negotiations were suspended following the collapse of Ministerial level negotiations in Geneva. Calls to resume the negotiations as soon as possible have come from various forums around the world but the future of the negotiations remains highly uncertain.

The chat session will take place from 16:30-17:30 Geneva time (that's EST plus 6 hours). Pascal Lamy will accept questions in English, French or Spanish. Subjects include the Doha suspension, the prospects for relaunching the talks and the future of the WTO and the global trading system.

To send advance questions that will be answered during the chat: dgchat@wto.org. There are instructions for joining the live session at http://www.wto.org/english/forums_e/chat_e/dg_chat_oct06_e.htm.

Mr Lamy, emphasizing the importance of continuing with Doha Round negotiations, told his General Council last week: “it is now obvious that the cost of failure, and the missed opportunity to rebalance the trading system, would hurt developing countries more than others”.

In his report to the General Council on 10 October 2006 as chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, Lamy said that he had talked to many Ministers and officials across a broad range of the membership, and had repeatedly stressed the costs of failure to resolve the current impasse — to the global economy and the multilateral system which underpins it.

Said Mr Lamy: 'As I stated at UNCTAD Trade and Development Board meeting two weeks ago, the present time-out in our negotiations should allow us to think more creatively about how trade, development and growth can fit together into a coherent whole, and Aid for Trade is a key piece of that puzzle. It presents all of us with the major opportunity — and challenge — of translating our promise of greater global cooperation into concrete actions and meaningful results.

'Given what is at stake in the Round, I have also urged governments to work hard in their own constituencies, although I am very aware of the political difficulties they face in doing so. But the fact remains that there is no acceptable alternative to the successful conclusion of the Round, and we all need to act upon that basis.

'From what I have heard from different interlocutors, I can say that there appears to be no doubt whatsoever in anyone's mind that we must conclude the Round as soon as possible. The desire to come back to the negotiating table and to make a deal is widespread and genuine. We have now heard calls for a swift resumption of the negotiations from every quarters — ASEAN, the G20, the Cairns Group, the World Bank-IMF Finance Committee and many Presidents and Ministers around the world. The African Union is preparing its position to be discussed at the end of this month in Addis Ababa.

'The next step, then, is to determine how and when we can bring everyone back to the table. This has been very much the focus of my recent meetings with Ministers, senior officials and Permanent Representatives here. I believe we have now established some of the parameters of our path.

'First, we can only resume when substantive positions have changed on key problem issues, in particular in the key area of Agriculture which holds the key to unlocking the rest of the agenda. No visible indications of flexibilities until now. Unless and until it happens, we will remain deadlocked.

'Second, when we resume, it must be across the board — the whole negotiating agenda must resume in step.

'Third, the window of opportunity we have is limited. If we are to have a chance of finishing in 2007, the space to move is somewhere between November and springtime, which appears to be the latest time to get the breakthrough we need.

'All our efforts over the next weeks must be dedicated to meeting these conditions. I am encouraged at the renewed informal contacts among governments and the seriousness with which Ministers and officials are tackling the challenge. There is also an obvious need to renew support for the DDA among the wider community, and in this respect I believe our recent Public Symposium was helpful. We have to combat complacency about the fate of the Round; there must be no doubt that it matters very much and that it must be brought to a successful conclusion.

'The resumption of the negotiations, therefore, has to be something we all work to make possible, because resuming makes no sense if nothing has changed since July. I will keep up my engagement with the membership to facilitate the movement we need, and I have encouraged the Negotiating Group Chairs to do the same. This is no time for inaction but rather for discreet and quiet activity. This pause in the process must be a productive one, where we lay the foundations for success. I urge all of you to continue technical work, discreet calculations, private sounding to prepare the ground.'


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