Mr Sebban voiced strong concerns on behalf of world business that recent progress of the negotiations has been slow, but he remained optimistic that a positive conclusion to the round could be reached by the 2006 deadline.
Warning that for success to be achieved the pace of progress must quicken, he called on governments to ensure that recent commitments, particularly those made at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, UK this month, are translated into meaningful action at the negotiating table.
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Transcript of Mr Sebban’s interview on CNBC Europe’s Morning Exchange programme:
Guy Johnson: As the Doha round of trade negotiations continues at a snail’s pace, to put it politely, many world and trade leaders have been publicly expressing their concern about the lack of progress. Today the WTO’s Trade Negotiations Committee, the body which is overseeing the Doha round, meets in Geneva.
Joining us now to discuss, Guy Sebban, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, joins us live from Paris to discuss exactly what is going on.
Supachai Panitchpakdi is a very, very concerned man at the moment. Do you think he has justification for the level of concern he’s expressing right now?
Guy Sebban: Certainly we have a lot of concern these days about the slow progress of negotiation in the Doha round. As you said, today and tomorrow we’ll have this meeting in Geneva. The Trade Negotiations Committee will come up with a report on the progress of the negotiations in Geneva and we will have another meeting at the end of July of the General Council in Geneva.
I think after these two sets of meetings we will have a better picture of what has been already achieved and what has to be achieved before the end of the Doha round.
Why are we concerned? It’s just because we think that with this level of progress it will be very, very difficult to have a positive end to the round before the fast track authority, the Trade Promotion Authority, given to the Bush administration will end. You know that this deadline is roughly mid-2007.
Maybe some people think that two years is plenty of time. In fact it’s a very short time because all of these conclusions of negotiations have to be converted into legal wording to be adopted by the different parliaments and the different countries.
Guy Johnson: Are we heading for another Cancºn? You talk about the timeframe being very short, Cancºn was the last sort of major crisis we had in terms of international trade, it kind of feels like Hong Kong could be pretty similar.
Guy Sebban: We hope not, the meeting in Hong Kong takes place in mid-December. After the August vacation, between the beginning of September and the beginning of December, we’ve counted 13 weeks during which a lot of progress can be made. I think if the governments send the right signals to their negotiators in Geneva and if they behave according to what they said, especially during the G8 Summit, we will have a lot of progress because they have committed themselves to make this progress and especially in the different points which are now to be negotiated: in agriculture, in non-agricultural market access, in services and in trade facilitation.
Guy Johnson: Guy, we’ll leave it there. Thank you very much indeed. Guy Sebban, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce.