Apec makes Doha round push
Arequipa, Peru, June 1, 2008
Trade ministers from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have urged nations to take immediate steps to prop up the limping Doha round of global trade talks.
The World Trade Organization negotiations are meant to lower trade barriers around the world and allow free trade among countries of varying prosperity.
The round has sputtered and gained momentum a handful of times since it was launched in November 2001, snared usually on differences between developed countries and major developing countries like China and India.
The draft statement of the 21-member Apec, a strongly worded endorsement of Doha round negotiations, is to be made official on Sunday at the end of a two-day meeting of trade ministers in Peru's southern city of Arequipa.
"We are deeply committed to strengthening the global trade system so that it is predictable, based on transparent rules, promotes trade liberalization and grants more economic opportunities to members of the WTO," the draft statement said.
The Doha round, now in its seventh year, faces a crucial test in coming weeks.
Mediators last week published proposals they hope can achieve a breakthrough by helping to close the gaps before an expected meeting of ministers from WTO countries in June or July.
"We had a very long discussion about the urgency of concluding this round," Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said on the sidelines of the meeting of Apec countries.
There is also a new sense of urgency to drive the round forward ahead of the US presidential election, which may cause years of further delays.
Peruvian Trade Minister Mercedes Araoz said at the Apec meeting that the draft document was meant to give a "political" boost to the negotiations in the World Trade Organization to bring down trade barriers.
"We have talked about concrete advances in agricultural and nonagricultural issues, which are the two pillars that will help move all the other issues forward," Araoz said during a break in talks.
The watchwords in the Apec effort are "balance" and "flexibility," officials said, and the major issues are access for agricultural goods and for nonagricultural market access, or NAMA.
"There is a very strong view that engagement needs to be immediate and the delivery on the modalities needs to be within the next month for so," said Crean.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said in Brussels this week the chances of a successful conclusion to the Doha round of talks on a global trade deal were 60 percent. - Reuters