WTO chief wants G20 leaders to discuss pushing forward global trade deal

By Kelly Olsen, AP
Monday, September 6, 2010

WTO chief wants G20 push on global trade deal

SEOUL, South Korea — Group of 20 leaders should use their November summit to make a serious push for the conclusion of stalled global trade negotiations, the head of the WTO said Monday.

World Trade Organization talks aimed at a new global commerce pact — the so-called Doha round named after Qatar’s capital where the negotiations were launched in 2001 — have been unable to secure a final deal amid disagreement between developed and emerging economies over trade rules applying to agricultural and industrial goods.

Pascal Lamy, director general of the Geneva-based body, met Monday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon. South Korea is hosting the G-20 summit in Seoul on Nov. 11-12.

Lamy praised G-20 leaders for taking up the issue of the Doha round at their summit in Toronto in June and called for them to follow through in Seoul. He said he does not expect them to engage in line-by-line negotiations, but rather provide the political push for necessary compromises.

“They will all have to give a bit more in order to conclude the round, not much more, but a bit more,” he said.

The G-20, which includes both advanced and emerging economies, has taken over from the Group of Seven as the key forum for steering the global economy in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Besides Toronto, it has also held summits in Washington, London and Pittsburgh.

Lamy said that South Korea’s Lee is clearly on side in the effort to push Doha forward.

Lamy said there is no realistic chance of the trade liberalization talks being concluded this year, but suggested that could happen in 2011. “Maybe next year, depending on progress made on substance,” he said.

He also said that despite signs of a slowing global economy the WTO expects world trade volume to increase by about 10 percent this year after falling 12 percent last year following the worldwide financial meltdown.

“Trade is roughly as open today as it was at the beginning of this crisis,” he said, crediting this year’s strength to “the fact that trade has remained open.”

The global slump had led to serious fears that governments would erect commercial and trade barriers to defend their economies.

Lamy acknowledged that growth risks for the world economy are on the “downside rather than on the upside” though not to the extent that the WTO needs to lower its forecast.

The 12.2 percent decline in world trade in 2009 was the biggest in more than 70 years, according to the WTO.

The organization said earlier this month that the value of world merchandise trade increased by about 25 percent during the first half of this year from the same period in 2009.

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