The World Trade Organization’s plenary session in Doha concluded in the wee hours of Wednesday morning with a breakthrough agreement by all 142 member countries to initiate a new round of trade negotiations early next year.
The session had already formalized the membership of China and Taiwan, but the real discussions centered on the desire by the European Union, the U.S. and other developed countries to convene a new round of trade negotiations aimed at forging new rules governing world trade by the end of 2005. Acceptance of the proposal was hailed as a boost to the shaken world economy, and a potential vehicle to significantly increase free trade.
Developing countries, led by the Indian delegation, had resisted the initiative, as the EU had insisted that environmental concerns and international labor standards be part of the agenda for the first time. The world’s poorer nations have expressed fears that the implementation of rules on these subjects would be used by more developed countries to deny market access to their products.
The breakthrough came when EU members agreed in principle to a reduction of its agricultural subsidies without identifying any specific figures. Developing countries had already won the right to produce cheaper forms of patented drugs to meet medical emergency situations, such as the AIDS epidemic which is ravaging parts of Africa.
In addition to environmental concerns the new round of talks will also include provisions for regulating competition and investment, which could produce increased market access for the financial services and insurance sector.
The U.S. Delegation, led by trade representative Robert Zoellick, agreed to a relaxation of some import curbs, but certainly welcomed the outcome. Zoellick told BBC News that the acceptance of a new round of trade talks had “erased the stain of Seattle.”
The most important overall outcome of the meeting in Qatar was the recognition of the need to address the genuine concerns about globalization expressed by developing countries. The failure to do so resulted in the debacle in Seattle. EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy summed up the primary issue and the role of the WTO in a BBC interview, saying, “Globalization needs to be harnessed. You can’t do that without strong institutions like the World Trade Organization.”|”wto, meeting, concludes, with, agreement, launch, new, trade, round,
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