Remember what’s at stake-ICC chief urges WTO negotiators

  • 15 December 2005

As world trade ministers meet here to make progress on the Doha Round of WTO trade talks, ICC Secretary-General, Guy Sebban has reminded delegates that the future of the world economy depended on their negotiations.

During a series of interviews with key media gathered in Hong Kong, Mr Sebban said the world business community was united in its desire to see a positive outcome from the meeting.

“It is important to remember what is at stake,” he told the BBC. “It is not only this trade round but the WTO itself, the future of the multilateral trading system, and the prospects for world growth.”

In an interview with France’s Les Echos newspaper, Mr Sebban said that the Hong Kong Ministerial should be seen in the context of the larger WTO negotiating process.

“We should not forget that Hong Kong is only one stage in this (trade liberalisation) process,” he said.

He added that further fracturing of the WTO process would lead to a proliferation of bilateral trade accords and an increase in protectionism around the world.

“If the Doha cycle does not succeed, we fear there will be a multiplication of bilateral trade deals, which are cumbersome and expensive for businesses to deal with,” he said. “This is definitely not an outcome that ICC and its member companies are looking for. We want to see the negotiations go forward”.

“A failure of the Doha trade round will lead to an increase in protectionism. This would only be detrimental to world economic growth.”

Mr Sebban, representing ICC’s more than 10,000 member companies from 90 countries, has spent several days in Hong Kong, meeting with ministers, companies and reporters.

He used interviews with other media outlets, including the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the South China Morning Post and Radio France International to reinforce business support for progress in the trade talks.

His campaign in Hong Kong comes a month after an ICC-coordinated Letter to the Editor, signed by more than 60 CEOs of major international companies and published in the Financial Times, calling on trade ministers to demonstrate leadership and recognise their responsibilities to the world economy.

“It will be an uphill task to conclude the Doha Round on time,” the letter stated. “But it is by no means mission impossible. Success will be within reach if the political will is found to make the compromises that recognize the common interest in success and the collective price of failure.”

“Business across the world urges WTO member governments to face up to their responsibilities and re-instil confidence among producers, consumers and investors that the multilateral trading system – which has done so much to raise global living standards over the past half-century – is still safe in their hands.”