By Alasdair Charnock

This week signalled further disappointment for the Doha Round with the European Parliament International Trade Committee announcing that agreement on the DDA will not be reached in Geneva this December.

It had been hoped that some form of package for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), or a Doha ‘light’ arrangement, would be the minimum to be brought to the table and agreed upon. But even that is now looking unlikely.

Comments from the US Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Michael Punke, only served to pour cold water over attempts to see some positive return from the round. Earlier this year in July he questioned the value of pursuing an LDC only package, saying that “continuing our efforts for an Early Harvest without prospect of success comes at a significant cost, crowding out essential work on preparations for the ministerial.”

In contrast, China ambassador Yi Xiaozhun believes that “a small package by December would keep the Round alive and keep the ball of single undertaking rolling.” This serves to highlight the differing opinions, and does not bode well for future progress.

While TOP would urge all members to work as hard as they can to make the discussions pro-active, the point is not just about ‘keeping the Round alive.’ It is about creating a platform from which global trade can thrive and which is inclusive not exclusive.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that by completing the round promptly in order to implement the extensive promises that will benefit LDCs would in effect open the gates to allow millions of people to escape poverty.

Summary

This week further doubt was cast over the likelihood of the Doha Round reaching a conclusion at the end of this year. Even a package for LDCs is looking improbable, highlighting the importance of providing alternative means for countries to trade their way out of poverty.

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