Lamy advocates consensus for successful trade talks

August 13th, 2008 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general Pascal Lamy Wednesday highlighted the importance of building a consensus to complete the Doha Round of trade talks successfully, saying “there is no other option available at this time”. “Flexibility both in content of final agreement and the method in which these agreements are negotiated are important to gain consensus among the 153 member-countries of WTO,” Lamy said at a conference here.

He also emphasised the need to probe the rules encompassing the multilateral trading system, whether they reflect the pro-development stance.

“The world of trade and participation by the member-countries has dramatically changed during the last 20 years,” Lamy said.

“We now have 15 trade unions (country and regional groupings) within the WTO, which are powerful coalitions who negotiate on the nitty-gritty of trade.”

Lamy appreciated the participation of all member-countries in the WTO, saying all the leaders of the trade unions - about 40 ministers from different countries - are present “in reality in the green room”.

Green room refers to a process in which heads of delegation seek consensus informally under the chairmanship of the director general.

This year, about 40 ministers met in a ministerial green room in a bid to help find consensus on agriculture and industrial goods trade, while discussing the best way forward in future negotiations on services, rules and intellectual property.

Lamy, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday to sound out chances of reviving the talks that collapsed last month, said WTO members had appealed to him not to “throw in the towel” as agreement had “never been so close”.

The multilateral trading system is driven by several key principles - non-discrimination, transparency and consensus, the WTO chief said.

“Agreements, including tariff levels and other obligations are tailored to take into account sensitivities of members and this is one of the reasons why WTO agreements are so complex.”

Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai said participation of delegations from poor nations could be funded by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) or the WTO as lack of financial resources prevents these countries from doing so.

Pillai also highlighted the difficulties of the developing nations in keeping pace with the ever-changing standards adopted by the developed countries.

This, he said, often acted as a non-tariff barrier.

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