OECD ministers call for new Round of trade talks at Doha

by Kanaga Raja

Geneva, 17 May 2001 -- Ministers of the member-countries of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have come out in favour of launching a new round of multilateral trade negotiations at the upcoming 4th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in Doha, in November.

The annual meeting of the Ministers earlier this week in Paris adopted a communique, which among other things dealt with the trade issues. The communique said, in the part relating to multilateral trade:

“We are committed to the launch of a new global round of multilateral trade negotiations at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha in November. We will engage constructively with all countries within the WTO to this end. Progress is being made in the “built-in agenda” negotiations on services and agriculture. We recognise that efforts to strengthen the multilateral trading system require both broad-based and balanced negotiations and the strengthening of the WTO as a rules-based institution. The broader framework of a new round will contribute to moving forward the “built-in agenda” and will offer the prospect of a wider distribution of the benefits sought by all participants. We renew our commitment to the strengthening of the multilateral trading system and our rejection of protectionist pressures.

All WTO Members will have to find their concerns and interests reflected in the final result, and negotiations will need to be conducted in a transparent manner. We must aim for trade liberalisation and strengthened WTO rules responding to the needs of the 21st century and our shared goal of sustainable development. The links between trade liberalisation and environment, as well as the sustainable use of natural resources, will need to be carefully clarified.  All WTO Members will need to be creative and flexible in addressing areas and modalities of negotiation. Trade and labour as well as other social development issues raise concerns that must be addressed through dialogue that takes into account the expertise of all relevant international institutions, including the WTO.

A new round is essential for developing countries given the need to stimulate their economic growth, alleviate poverty and promote their integration into the multilateral trading system. We recognise that they have a particular interest in a number of areas, including agriculture and textiles and clothing. Some progress has been made to date on Uruguay Round implementation issues and we urge all WTO members to seek ways to address developing country requests and concerns, and to build confidence as preparations for Doha proceed. We welcome recent initiatives by OECD Members to liberalise preferential market access for the least developed countries, and the moves to incorporate trade into poverty reduction strategy programmes. Enhanced capacity building and technical assistance are also vital, if developing countries are to benefit from more open markets. We support the recently revised Integrated Framework Initiative.

Taking into account the strong interest of civil society regarding globalisation and the process of trade and investment liberalisation, we are committed to transparency and to increased and sustained communication with the public. We are convinced that progressive multilateral liberalisation and strengthening of the rules, in the context of an effective and predictable governance framework and greater coherence among international organisations, and when combined with mutually supportive environmental and social policies, are fundamental for sustainable development and a major driving force for innovation, growth and enhanced human welfare worldwide. WTO-consistent preferential trade agreements can complement but cannot substitute for coherent multilateral rules and progressive multilateral liberalisation.

We consider that OECD has a major role to play in continuing efforts to strengthen the multilateral trading system, and build understanding of what is at stake for countries at all levels of development. OECD will continue to build bridges, through its analytical work and its non-negotiating policy dialogue, among its membership and beyond. We welcome ongoing efforts in OECD to promote greater coherence between trade and development co-operation policies. We look forward to a progress report in 2002. We ask OECD to redouble its efforts to explore solutions to bring about normal competitive conditions in shipbuilding, and encourage shipbuilding countries outside the OECD to participate in this work. Agriculture and fisheries are key sectors for sustainable development and the multilateral trading system.

·        While decreasing in 2000 following two years of increase, support to agriculture in the OECD area remains high at around US$ 327 billion, as measured by the Producer Support Estimate. Despite some shift away from market price support and output payments, these continue to be the dominant forms of support in most countries, with consequent adverse impacts on production and trade, in both developed and developing countries. The WTO negotiations within the “built-in” agenda provide an important opportunity for further reform, which will bring economic, environmental and social benefits. OECD’s analysis of multifunctionality, decoupling, the impacts of the Uruguay Round Agreement and various trade-related topics, including environmental linkages, is an essential contribution to the understanding of agricultural policies and their international impacts.

·        Fisheries policies have to address the relation between sustainable management of resources and trade liberalisation, the causes of unsustainable fishing, and the need to avoid those subsidies that are harmful, to be further analysed by the OECD based on its recent study, Transition to Responsible Fisheries. This study is a valuable contribution, and we look to OECD, in co-operation with the FAO and other international organisations, to deepen its analysis in these fields to inform policy development.” – SUNS4898

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