The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the world business organization, is very disappointed by the lack of progress registered at the Doha Round stocktaking exercise which concluded at the end of March, and, moreover, the slow pace of the negotiations since then.
World business feels very strongly that if the Doha Round is to be put on a sure path to achieving an ambitious and balanced result over the coming months, the negotiations must progress more quickly overall.
Political will is lacking
ICC can only note that repeated pronouncements by heads of state and government in international forums, in particular the G8 and the G20, in favour of concluding the Doha Round seem not to have succeeded in injecting much needed political will into the negotiations. What is particularly worrying is the degree to which such pronouncements seem disconnected from what is happening at the negotiating table in Geneva. In this respect, ICC very much regrets that the June Toronto G20
declaration did not mention a precise deadline for the conclusion of the Doha Round.
ICC is of the view that the Doha Round negotiations have reached a point where the many hard-won trade- and wealth-creating outcomes already on the table might be lost unless WTO members redouble their efforts to conclude the Round as soon as possible to achieve an ambitious and balanced result.
The potential benefits of a successful Doha Round are well documented and have been delineated in previous ICC statements. It should be noted, however, that failure to reach agreement on such a deal may carry risks for the international economy. These risks may include:
- A weakening of the multilateral trading system Improving global trade rules and achieving greater trade liberalization
- A foregone opportunity to improve WTO rules and liberalize world trade
- A potential rise in protectionism and economic nationalism
In light of these risks, ICC makes the following recommendations to WTO member governments, and G20 countries in particular:
- Demonstrate, in deeds as well as words, strong political support for the rules-based multilateral trading system, that has shown itself to be a central element of international economic cooperation with a proven track record of stimulating global growth and employment. Encouraging greater flows of international trade by concluding the Doha Round can boost the prospects of economic recovery worldwide and is probably the most fiscally responsible stimulus measure available to governments.
- Translate high-level pronouncements by heads of state and government into concrete progress at the negotiating table. To an important degree, this depends on the commitment of WTO members to make trade a political priority and to invest political capital in ensuring that the Doha Round negotiations achieve an ambitious and balanced result as a matter of singular urgency. This will require a more realistic view of what is on the table as well as a more realistic approach of what can be reasonably added to the current package
- Make a concerted effort to narrow as much as possible the remaining gaps in the negotiations through a combination of political will and technical solutions so that a complete Doha package can be put to trade ministers as soon as possible.
- Strengthen the multilateral trading system’s capacity to be a pillar of the economic recovery and provide a solid rampart against protectionism. This can only be done effectively on the basis of a successful conclusion of the Doha Round and active engagement by governments in favour of greater multilateral trade liberalization as well as autonomous liberalization.