WTO wants to conclude Doha round this year

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Bangalore, Jan 28 (IANS) The World Trade Organsiation (WTO) is pulling out all stops to conclude its protracted Doha round of talks by the end of this year, following the adoption of a package in Bali last month, a top official said Tuesday.

“We have time up to this year-end to work on lowering trade barriers and framing new rules to retain some in the interest of all, as we did recently (Dec 7) for the Bali package to address concerns of developing countries, including India for trade facilitation and food security,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said on the margins of a trade meet here.

Though the Doha round began in 2001 among the trade body’s 160 members, an agreement could not be reached on removing hurdles on a binding framework of trade rules for all countries despite years of negotiations in the past decade.

“We think the Bali package gives boost to the system in terms of credibility and relevance. As member-countries have begun implementing its agreements, we are focusing on concluding the Doha round by this year and not wait for another 12-13 years,” Azevedo said.

Delivering a keynote address at a plenary session on “Entering into a new trade era post Bali” in the three-day Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) partnership summit, Azevodo said the Bali round was a job half done at best for the international trade body.

“The Bali agreement will infuse trade valued at $1 trillion into the global economy and generate 21 million jobs, including 18 million in developing countries. This has paved way to put the Doha round back on track and draw a roadmap to revive the talks,” the Brazilian diplomat said.

At the WTO ninth ministerial conference, its members agreed on a package of trade concessions, including facilitation to modernise customs procedures and provisions on agriculture.

“What we have agreed in Bali is the centrality of three things such as food security, livelihood and rural development. At the same time, the three pillars were discussed — agriculture, non-agriculture market access and services, which should remain the focus of talks,” he said.

The director-general admitted that the Bali package was arrived only after India demanded and got concessions to ensure its prime concern – food security to the poor, livelihood security and rural development.

“At Bali, we learnt that we have to be flexible, innovative and creative to break the deadlock in the Doha round of talks,” he said.

Appreciating India’s concern for food security, he said India would be a central player in finding a permanent solution in food security the world over.

Participating in the session, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said India got due recognition for its demands relating to agriculture, non-agricultural market access and services.

“The Bali package demonstrated that the WTO has not collapsed. As India has its commitment towards the trade body, we can do more to take it to the next level,” Sharma said.

Noting that the success of Bali ministerial had injected a new life into the Doha round of trade negotiations, he said a renewed hope was generated to conclude the Doha round as per its core development mandate.

“The success at Bali also means WTO members are making collective efforts to strengthen the process of multilateral trading system,” Sharma said.

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