WTO leaders agree to settle food exports row
Geneva, June 19, 2009
Diplomats from 153 countries negotiating a global free trade pact have agreed to try to settle their differences over food exports, riding the wave of high-level calls to wrap up the long-sought Doha Round pact.
David Walker, New Zealand's ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), who steers its negotiations on agricultural goods, called pledges from the US, European Union, India and others to seek a conclusion of the seven-and-half-year-old talks 'very much music to my ears.'
'We should be looking now to move expeditiously with some work on outstanding gaps and pending technical issues,' he said after a meeting with the full membership on the state of the talks.
Walker said that a ministerial meeting earlier this month in Bali, Indonesia, of key agricultural exporting nations had given fresh impetus to the Doha Round talks, which were launched in November 2001 and have been largely stalled since last year.
A meeting of trade ministers next week in Paris, on the sidelines of a conference of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development should inject even more political momentum to the drive to conclude the deal, which could help steady the troubled world economy, Walker said.
That Paris meeting is also expected to witness a series of bilateral talks between top trade officials including US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton and India's new trade minister Anand Sharma.
Diplomats at yesterday's WTO meeting said that several countries, including the US and Switzerland, called for a prompt conclusion of the Doha Round to buoy commerce and steady the global economy.