ICC Secretary General discusses trade negotiations on BBC Radio

  • 10 November 2005

As WTO ministers met in Geneva yesterday for a third day of discussions to keep the Doha round of trade negotiations on track, ICC Secretary General Guy Sebban was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the status of the talks.

Mr Sebban stressed that progress at next month’s Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong is vital for the future of the multilateral trading system which has done so much to raise global living standards over the past half-century. Despite his concerns about the slow progress of the negotiations, the ICC Secretary General remained hopeful that a deal could be achieved.

Today is BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme and, with an average 2.2 million people tuning in each morning, the most listened to early morning news programme in Britain.

Transcript of Mr Sebban’s interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

Greg Woods: Yesterday 60 business leaders from companies around the world signed a letter to the Financial Times urging governments to redouble their efforts and make Hong Kong a defining moment.

The letter was organized by the International Chamber of Commerce and its Secretary General Guy Sebban is on the line from Paris. Good morning.

Guy Sebban: Good morning.

GW: Your letter expressed concern that these talks are in serious trouble and that seems to be the case. Do you think a deal in Hong Kong is still possible?

GS: Yes, I remain hopeful. In this kind of negotiation we often have success at the very last minute. We must understand that these negotiations are very complex, they are multidimensional and each and every country wants to get a good deal for themselves.

GW: Well your confidence doesn’t seem to be shared by Peter Mandelson [European Commissioner for Trade]. He is quoted as saying “there is a clear preference among the majority of the people holding these talks in Geneva to adjust expectations”.

GS: Yes, I have heard that and I think we can adjust expectations as a step in the process but something must be obtained in Hong Kong. What is very important is to guarantee the success of the Doha round because the Doha round is critical for this multilateral system on which we have been living for so many decades and which has proven that it is the best source of growth and economic progress.

GW: Europe, and in particular France, has been criticized for digging in its heels over any concessions on farm subsidies. Do you think that is fair?

GS: Every country has its own agenda and its own priorities and being in charge of an international organization I would not like to point my finger at any one country.

What I can say is that every country has its expectations, be it in agriculture, in services or in NAMA (Non-Agricultural Market Access) or in other fields. What is important is that at the end of the day, when the round is concluded, every country finds a good compromise between the concessions that have been made and the positive gains that they have obtained.

GW: Guy Sebban from the International Chamber of Commerce, thank you.