ICC urges conclusion of the Doha Round in letter to the FT

  • 15 April 2011

At the initiative of ICC, representatives of major multinational companies called for G20 leaders to recommit to reaching agreement on the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of trade talks this year in a letter published on 14 April in the Financial Times. Signatories of the letter, below, include the chief executives of Unilever and Shell among other companies.

We must not let Doha, potentially the most ambitious global deal ever, fail

From Mr John Buchanan, Mr Richard Burrows, Mr Paul Polman and others.

Sir, We represent some of the leading international businesses in the UK. At the initiative of the International Chamber of Commerce we are writing to highlight the precarious state of the Doha Round of world trade talks.

It is easy to be cynical about the decade-long Doha negotiations, which have been characterised by numerous missed deadlines and periodic crises.

Recent reports tell the same weary story: enduring differences in negotiating positions have called into question whether governments will be able to meet their stated goal of striking a deal by the end of the year. It would be easy to suggest that now is the moment to call time on the Round for good.

But in politics, like business, good leaders shouldn’t choose the easy way out. To do so on Doha would be to waste many of the hard-won gains that are already on the negotiating table.

Existing offers alone could render Doha the most ambitious global deal ever negotiated – providing the basis for deep tariff cuts in key areas, technical reforms to make doing business abroad easier, and simpler mechanisms to resolve trade disputes.

Why not make the tough compromises needed to lock in these potential gains? The downsides of a collapse in the talks are stark by comparison: a possible weakening of the multilateral trading system and, by extension, its capacity to keep in check protectionist pressures.

In 2007, business leaders wrote on these pages about Doha that “what is at stake in the weeks ahead is of crucial importance for creating business opportunities, strengthening the world economy, and raising global living standards”.

These words are all the more resonant now as we approach what is likely to be the defining period for the Round. If a high-level agreement cannot be put in place by late spring the prospect of completing the talks by end-2011 will all but disappear. The political portents suggest that if a deal is not done this year it may never be achieved.

We must not let that happen. We call on the G20 leaders to recommit to a deal and to give their negotiators the necessary latitude to land it. They – and we – have a very final chance. We must all invest the time and effort to get a deal done.

John Buchanan,

Chairman, International Chamber of Commerce (UK);

Chairman, Smith & Nephew

Richard Burrows,

Chairman, British American Tobacco

Paul Polman,

Chief Executive, Unilever

Sir Mike Rake,

Chairman, BT Group

Sir Simon Robertson,

Chairman, Rolls-Royce

Carl-Henric Svanberg,

Chairman, BP

Peter Voser,

Chief Executive, Shell

Paul Walsh,

Chief Executive, Diageo