Thursday, 20 November 2008

Lamy says trade deal more vital than ever for poor

Wed 19 Nov 2008
By Alan Raybould

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (Reuters) - World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy said on Wednesday a deal on the Doha trade round was needed now more than ever to help poor countries withstand the economic crisis.

Applauding the recent political impetus given by world leaders to the trade talks, Lamy told a meeting of poor nations in Cambodia that WTO member countries have it within their grasp to reach the outlines of a deal.

"The international community must deliver on both trade and aid," he told the ministers meeting in the tourist town of Siem Reap to discuss how aid can be used to develop trade and industry.

The Doha round was launched in the Qatari capital seven years ago to free up world trade by cutting farm subsidies, and tariffs on agricultural and industrial goods, with a clear mandate to help developing countries.

But it has hit deadlock amid differences between rich and poor nations and exporters and importers.

"In the present economic turmoil, what was necessary yesterday has now become indispensible," Lamy said.

"I think there is a growing consensus that only multilateral solutions can address the challenges facing the global economy today" he added.

Lamy did not say if it would be possible to gather ministers at the WTO's headquarters in Geneva to thrash out a framework deal before the end of the year, a target set by the Group of 20 rich and developing countries at a weekend meeting in Washington.

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) represented in Siem Reap would be big gainers from a successful Doha round, since the bulk of their goods would then have duty-free and quota-free access to markets around the world.

The talks stalled in July over demands by India that its huge farming sector should be given protection from any surge in imports that followed the freeing up of markets.

Relatively wealthy India was not represented in Siem Reap.

While appreciating what the WTO and Lamy were doing, ministers at the meeting stressed the need for aid to develop their industries so they could compete in free markets.

Lamy acknowledged their problems, especially with remittances likely to slow and the market for trade finance deteriorating sharply, especially since September.

He noted that international donors would be meeting in Qatar on financing for development aid in just over a week's time.

"I hope sincerely that the signals from Qatar will be in line with the determination which the G20 leaders have shown in Washington to keep to their commitments in development assistance, notwithstanding the obvious difficult economic and budgetary circumstances today," he said.

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