Arab ministers gathered in Beirut ended their United Nations-backed meeting today expressing concern with the lack of progress in talks since the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) last ministerial conference, in Doha, Qatar, in 2001, and voiced dissatisfaction that developed countries have not fulfilled the promises they gave in previous negotiation rounds.
The two-day Beirut meeting was held to help clarify the position of the region’s countries on various trade issues in order for them to speak with a concerted voice during the WTO’s Fifth Ministerial Conference, scheduled for 10 to 14 September in Cancun, Mexico.
Meeting participants also stressed that freedom of trade should lead to backing the development objectives of the developing and the least developed countries. They also agreed that no new subjects should be added to the negotiation agenda before completing the implementation of the suspended ones.
In her remarks at a press conference following the meeting’s conclusion, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Mervat Tallawy, recalled that the centrepiece of ESCWA technical strategy is to better prepare Arab countries for the Cancun Conference. “To that end, the Commission produced 27 specialized papers aiming to help the region form a collective vision ahead of the coming WTO ministerial conference,” she noted.
Ms. Tallawy, who told reporters that the Arab ministers agreed on coordinating the positions of their countries on several issues including intellectual property, public health, agriculture, and accession to international markets for non-agricultural goods, underlined the importance of the meeting.
The meeting opened yesterday with the Secretary-General of the Arab Economic Unity Council, Ahmed Goweily, saying there were valuable initiatives coordinating regional issues, such as agriculture, trade and services. Arab countries should seek to incorporate themselves in the world economy in order to have a larger part in the world trade, he added.
“The Arab countries have to integrate their economy in a more comprehensive approach in order to achieve their goals,” Mr. Goweily told the delegates.