Banking & finance

Doha Round agreement all the more vital in global economic crisis

  • 17 December 2008

Yet again, ICC must register its disappointment and concern that publicly-stated goals for the Doha Round trade negotiations agreed by countries at heads of government level fail to be translated into reality.

When the G20 leaders met in Washington on 15 November last, they promised to strive to reach agreement this year on modalities for agriculture and industrial goods that would be a major step to successfully concluding the Doha Round. This now looks a vain hope since trade ministers will not after all be meeting in Geneva this week as previously anticipated.

Pascal Lamy, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), has attributed this situation to a continuing “lack of political will” on the part of some governments, including members of the G20, to make the moves necessary to tie up a modalities accord before year end.

That a ministerial meeting will not take place this week does not mean that the Doha Round has collapsed. It is another setback and it will mean a further delay. But ICC will continue to campaign strongly for the negotiations in the hope that, against the background of a global economic crisis, a new administration and Congress in the US and developments in what Mr Lamy calls “the political agenda” in other parts of the world will during the course of 2009 prove favourable to an end-result that ICC has long fought for.

As 2009 approaches, we urge WTO member governments to push ahead with negotiations on the basis of the texts already on the table. We underline again the huge benefits of a deal to lock in the market access that countries have already achieved, as well as the new market access that a successful Round will offer. Most of all, a successful completion of the negotiations in 2009 will provide a huge insurance policy against protectionism in the midst of a global economic crisis where bogus short-term fixes are much in demand.

ICC has welcomed the influential role given to the G20 forum in the current crisis since we believe that countries with big emerging markets must be brought more actively into the international decision-making process in order to effectively address problems of global proportions. However, more influence brings with it more responsibility. At the Washington summit the G20 leaders gave a firm undertaking to refrain, during the following 12 months, from “raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services, imposing new export restrictions, or implementing WTO-inconsistent measures to stimulate exports”. In 2009, ICC will be holding the G20 countries to account to fulfill that undertaking.

We therefore applaud the current work within the WTO to put in place a monitoring mechanism to give encouragement and transparency to the progress the G20 countries make in living up to their commitments.