The meeting of the world’s trade ministers in Hong Kong has fallen well short of achieving the modest aim of agreeing a basic platform from which the Doha Round could have been concluded in 2006.
The Business Council of Australia is very concerned about the parlous state of the negotiations and is calling for a number of immediate follow up actions by trade ministers to recover lost ground.
The Chairman of the BCA’s Trade and International Relations Task Force, Mr John Denton, said that there was now a grave risk that further beneficial trade liberalisation will not be realised under the Doha Round while key nations refused to constructively negotiate as happened in Hong Kong.
“Worse still, there is a danger that multilateral trading arrangements under the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be damaged. This is despite the proven economic benefits that multilateral trading agreements have delivered over more than 50 years”, Mr Denton said after attending the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong.
The BCA has identified four priority actions that the 149 member nations of the WTO should take.
First, trade ministers must make sure that the current level of ambition is maintained and fully translated into an outcomes focused work plan for 2006.
Second, ministers must remain continuously engaged in making sure the outcomes identified in the work plan are achieved and agreed by them. This will require the ongoing direct leadership of the ministers.
Third, WTO members need to be prepared to bring substantial offers to the table in all key areas under negotiation, and stop waiting for others to act as a precondition for moving forward.
Fourth, ministers need to agree to make sure that going forward the negotiations are focused on achieving future multilateral trade outcomes in all the key areas by the end of 2006, and that time is not taken up on other issues.
“It is no coincidence that while there has been a successful multilateral trading system in place we have seen unprecedented world economic growth and development,” Mr Denton said.
“The Doha Round negotiations are a tremendous opportunity to achieve lasting economic benefits for businesses, employees and their families in all of the countries in the WTO, especially the many developing nations. We urge all the key governments to take the actions necessary to quickly recover the lost ground before it is too late”, Mr Denton concluded.