COPENHAGEN, Dec 1 (Reuters) – Denmark, which will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on Jan. 1, hopes to help reinvigorate the stalled Doha round of trade talks under the World Trade Organization, its trade minister said on Thursday.
The Doha round reached deadlock this year after a decade of negotiations, and trade ministers from the WTO’s 153 member countries are under pressure to come up with an answer when they convene in Geneva this month.
“We know that the WTO round is currently in deadlock,” Minister for Trade and Investment Pia Olsen Dyhr told Reuters in an interview. “We will try to breathe some air into the WTO system if possible.”
“It is difficult to imagine that the Doha round will just open up for business again … but I think it is very important that we show the developing countries we mean serious business when we call it the Doha development round.”
Officially called the Doha Development Agenda, which would be the biggest step towards global trade liberalisation since the WTO was created 16 years ago, the stalled talks have led to frustration and tensions between rich and poor countries.
To break the impasse, some countries have been considering pushing ahead with a scaled back Doha deal to benefit the world’s poorest countries, an approach dubbed “Doha Lite”, although others still want a comprehensive deal.
“Some of the countries I have been talking to are eager to make a Doha Lite for the LDCs (least-developed countries) at some point, and that could be one step forward, but it is not going to be an easy path going there,” she said.
“We are not saying that we should not go for the whole package, but saying that, one step on the road could be a Doha Lite,” she said.
“There won’t be conclusions in December, but it is important to keep the ball rolling to make the WTO still interesting to the world — besides the fact that Russia will be a new member.”
OPENING UP DENMARK
Olsen Dyhr’s Socialist People’s Party joined a new Social Democrat-led coalition government in October after the “Red bloc” alliance won elections in mid-September. It is the first time her party, led by Foreign Minister Villy Sovndal, has entered government.
Denmark hopes to attract more international companies by making it easier for foreign employees to get visas and work permits, Olsen Dyhr said.
During a decade of rule by a Liberal-Coalition minority government which was supported by the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, Denmark adopted some of Europe’s toughest curbs on immigrants, particularly in the area of family unification.
“My main task is to show the world that Denmark is open for business,” Olsen Dyhr said. “We want to make it easier for people to come and work in Denmark.”