Business Leaders Challenge WTO Trade Ministers

World Business Leaders for Growth, a coalition of CEO-led business groups from Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, Mexico and the United States, today expressed growing concern that trade ministers appear to be falling short of setting the stage to complete the Doha Development Agenda by the end of 2006, as called for by World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy.

“With only forty-eight hours left, the time for posturing is over,” said Harold McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO of The McGraw-Hill Companies, and Chairman of the Business Roundtable International Trade and Investment Task Force. “Ministers cannot squander the opportunities that exist. We need action in Hong Kong to keep the promise of Doha alive.”

The CEOs identified three critical courses of action the ministers must achieve:

1. The ministers must agree to maintain the current level of ambition.

2. They must agree on an ambitious timetable, and a detailed results-oriented work plan at the ministerial level.

3. All WTO members must be prepared to start bringing substantial offers to the table in all key areas under negotiation, and stop waiting for others to act as a precondition for moving forward.

“As world business leaders, we are very concerned with the lack of progress in Hong Kong, and the lack of focus on how to bring the Doha negotiations to a successful conclusion in 2006,” said John Denton, Partner and CEO of Australian firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, and Chairman of the Business Council of Australia’s Trade Task Force.

“The Doha negotiations offer a unique opportunity for generating significant economic and social benefits for WTO members,” said Yoshiro Kuwata, Chairman of Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation, and Chairman of the Policy Subcommittee of Nippon Keidanren’s Committee on Trade and Investment. “This is especially true for the many developing countries in the WTO.”

“Trade expansion helps to grow the economy and opens new opportunities for workers, families and businesses,” added Mr. McGraw. “We are committed to a successful Doha Round because failure would have serious economic and political consequences, and would call into question the promise and future of the WTO.”

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World Business Leaders for Growth is a coalition of CEO –led business groups that joined forces because as business leaders we know first hand how important trade and investment liberalization is to sustained economic growth for nations at all stages of development. In our policy statement ‘Advancing the Promise of Doha’ we highlighted the benefits of trade liberalization and outlined the key elements needed for successful conclusion of the Doha Round. Our members include the Business Council of Australia, the Business Roundtable, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Consejo Mexicano de Hombres de Negocios, the European Roundtable of Industrialists, and the Nippon Keidanren.