Real Progress Must Be the Priority for Doha

The Business Council of Australia has called for real concessions by all parties to break the impasse in the Doha round of trade negotiations.

In welcoming the decision by trade ministers to resume negotiations, the Chairman of the BCA’s Task Force on Trade, John Denton, said it was vital that leading nations were prepared to make substantial additional offers.

“The 150 nations that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have an opportunity to secure increased economic growth and higher living standards.

“The World Bank has estimated that a substantial agreement under the Doha round trade negotiations would add as much as A$380 billion a year to the world economy,” Mr Denton said.

“Governments in the United States and Europe have a particular responsibility to go much further in freeing up their markets. In doing so they would set an example for all others to follow.

“Strong and forward-looking leadership will be needed if the Doha Round is to live up to its original goals.”

Mr Denton said the resumption of the negotiations was a welcome first step, but that three key actions were now needed.

“Leading nations must now take the next step and offer up substantial concessions in the form of additional liberalisation measures to their agricultural, industrial and services markets.

“Second, extensive cooperation will be required amongst all WTO members to convince leading developing nations of the importance of further liberalisation. Developing countries will achieve substantial economic and social benefits if a meaningful agreement can be reached.

“Third, the major elements of a comprehensive agreement need to be concluded by no later than May 2007 in order to bolster the case for the United States Congress to extend its Trade Promotion Authority legislation beyond its current expiry date in mid 2007,” Mr Denton said.

Mr Denton said that these actions would require political courage as there is always some level of domestic resistance to the liberalisation of markets and economies.

“We all need to keep in mind that if a significant breakthrough is not achieved, the opportunity to realise the potential benefits of greater economic growth and poverty reduction may be lost for good.

“Business organisations across the world are united in calling on governments to take the hard decisions now and make certain that all WTO nations are able to share in the economic benefits that can be captured for the future,” Mr Denton said.