Kamalesh Sharma’s prescription for world traders: it’s good to talk

July 31st, 2008 - 11:10 am ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, July 31 (IANS) The head of the Commonwealth harnessed his considerable experience in multilateral negotiations to recommend a series of steps that he said rich countries should take following the collapse of the Doha Round of world trade talks in Geneva. Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, who was the spokesman for developing countries at the previous Uruguay Round of trade talks, said his 53-nation grouping would like to see:

- The European Union meet the deadline for ending the worst of its agricultural subsidies;
- The US honour its commitment to end cotton export subsidies; and
- Least developed countries given improved access in exporting to the markets of developed countries.

“Despite the current impasse, it is important that the advances already made over seven years are not lost,” Sharma said in a statement.

“For the poorest, smallest and most vulnerable states, all these are partial gains on which to build,” he added.

“This setback should not be allowed to undermine the concept of multilateralism, and the potentially large gains to be made by the global economy.”

Sharma won praise for his role as spokesman for developing countries at the Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) during the Uruguay Round of trade talks 1988-90.

Earlier this year, he visited his former office for a meeting with Unctad Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi and agreed to strengthen partnerships in Aid for Trade - an instrument designed to help small and poor countries cope with the demands of international trade.

In his statement Wednesday, Sharma said Tuesday’s collapse of trade talks in Geneva had “greatly disappointed” the Commonwealth, a third of whose citizens lived in poverty.

He feared the poorest of the Commonwealth nations would be hit hardest.

“Trade is the acknowledged route out of poverty, and the burden of the failure to reach commonly-agreed conclusions is largely borne by the least developed countries and the small and vulnerable states, which can only progress in a more development-friendly multilateral trading system,” Sharma said.

“We call for a resumption of the Round as early as possible,” he added.

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