Business echoes Lamy; calls for agreement on Doha trade talks by year-end

  • 29 March 2006

The International Chamber of Commerce today gave its full support to the statements made yesterday by Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization, saying time was running out on the Doha Round of trade negotiations and stressing the critical need for WTO members to meet the end-April deadline for accords vital to an eventual global trade treaty by the end of the year.

Mr Lamy made the statements in his address to the trade negotiations committee, the steering body for the WTO’s Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, which met in Geneva yesterday.

ICC also supplied WTO members with detailed recommendations for an ambitious, balanced conclusion to the Doha Round by the end of the year.

“A successful outcome to the Doha negotiations is vital to help raise global living standards, create jobs, and boost world economic growth,” said ICC Secretary General Guy Sebban. “An agreement will go a long way to reinforcing the rules-based multilateral trading system, keeping in check protectionist instincts and safeguarding non-discriminatory trade,” he added.

In its seven-page statement, ICC said high-level involvement by WTO member governments was crucial to make compromises and difficult decisions on opening markets, recognizing the common interest in success and the collective cost of failure. “The challenge is more political than technical,” the ICC statement said. ICC called on WTO members to remind themselves of their responsibility as custodians of the multilateral trading system that had served the world economy so well.

ICC stressed the negotiations on market access for non-agricultural products were of paramount importance, and must include a substantial reduction in applied tariffs for all products, which will result in increased trade opportunities for all WTO members.

Concerning the negotiations on agriculture, ICC called for substantial reductions in domestic support and improvement in market access for all products, even sensitive products, and for keeping particular treatment of such products to a minimum. The current barriers impose a heavy burden on consumers and taxpayers, especially in industrialized countries, and have a particularly injurious effect on the export opportunities of many developing countries.

ICC expressed concern over the slow pace of progress in negotiations to liberalize trade in services and urged WTO members to make binding commitments towards higher levels of liberalization on the broadest possible range of services, and to go beyond levels currently available through unilateral access. ICC noted the increasing need to move professional, technical and managerial personnel across national borders; an area of particular interest to developing countries.

ICC said it was encouraged by the progress made to date in the Doha Round on trade facilitation, noting that developing countries and small and medium-sized enterprises especially will reap significant gains from more efficient customs procedures.

To address the risk of fragmentation of the multilateral trading system resulting from the increase in preferential trade agreements, ICC said much progress was necessary on clarifying and improving WTO disciplines and procedures relating to such agreements.

“The most effective long-term solution to discriminatory trade preferences is to bring the current Doha Round to a successful conclusion by year-end, which will lead to a broad and substantial lowering of tariff and non-tariff barriers that will benefit all WTO members,” Mr Sebban said.