Doha Round: Time for Tough Decisions

28 April 2006

Financial Times

Peter Corish
President, National Farmers' Federation, Australia

John Denton
Partner & Chief Executive Officer
Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Vince FitzGerald
President, Australian Services Roundtable

Sir, The World Trade Organisation's Doha development agenda is in jeopardy. A desperate last-ditch effort looms as ministers try to advance the agricultural and industrial goods negotiations, consistent with the April 30 deadline set by WTO ministers in Hong Kong last year.

The spectre of losing the US trade promotion authority is very real. Unless a breakthrough is achieved in the days ahead, the deadline will lapse and the window of opportunity to conclude the Doha round will close. Business and community interests the world over will suffer.

The WTO system already lags behind our various business needs, especially in newer areas related to services, technology and investment. All governments have a responsibility to deliver tangible results. We want greater opportunities to prosper. We seek improved international trading opportunities. We all need to work with our governments to ensure broad economy-wide interests are foremost in their minds as the deadline counts down. The time has come for all our governments to say "yes" to trade reform.

Bringing the promise of the Doha round to fruition poses many political challenges. Businesses everywhere expect all WTO members to take up the task. Constructive policy courses must be charted. Every WTO member must contribute and commit to undertaking the adjustments needed in its own economy. There can be no excuse for inertia, which will only herald global economic decline.

The Doha round is a single undertaking. A balanced and commercially substantive agreement is the only acceptable outcome to all political, industrial and societal interests. We know there are trade-offs and quid pro quos to be made. But at the end of the day, this round will be judged on the extent to which it creates new trading opportunities.

Kick-starting stalled negotiations on agriculture is the most immediate political imperative. A concerted and audible industry voice can re-ignite political will. In truth, we all want progress on agriculture. It is time we told our governments to get on with it.

The Doha round is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. No WTO member or industry sector can afford to allow this opportunity to slip by. The time for tough, rational and business-like decision-making is at hand.



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