Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies says South Africa and other developing countries have gained little from the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations that began a decade ago.
South Africa and other developing countries have gained little from the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations that began a decade ago, says Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies .
Speaking at a press briefing in Boksburg yesterday, Mr Davies said SA’s position was that the dialogue was under threat because unreasonable demands had been placed on developing countries.
The Doha round is the latest round of trade negotiations among members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Its aim is to achieve major reform of the international trading system through the introduction of lower trade barriers and revised trade rules.
The work programme covers about 20 areas of trade.
Mr Davies’s briefing followed a meeting between the Department of Trade and Industry and representatives from business and labour to decide on the SA’s response to the WTO ministerial conference to be held in Geneva next month.
Mr Davies said he wanted SA to stick to its original mandate, which looked at gaining beneficial trade deals for the country and other developing states. This was regardless of attempts by the US and parts of Europe to bring up issues such as how developing countries responded to climate change and how they should be “punished” for it through trade.
“The mandate agreed to at Doha in 2001 guides the negotiating process and is developmental in context,” he said.
SA has had the same agenda since the round began, including reforming trade rules for agriculture. It also aims to establish duty- free and quota-free access for the world’s least-developed countries.
Mr Davies said developed countries were trying to move away from developmental issues.
“We are very disturbed that the US and others have now put forward a whole set of new proposals to move away from the development mandate … and instead want new issues — climate change, energy, investment … which threaten to shift attention to these issues which have a greater appeal to developed countries than developing countries,” he said.
“Our view as SA is we still believe the development issues are fundamental … any progress has to address them, and we are not going to be hijacked in a different direction,” he said.
However, Peter Draper, senior research fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said the WTO had actually made trade more liberal and benefited various developing country members of the WTO even if the Doha round had stagnated.