Successful trade talks can boost global economy and livelihoods, says UN official
A successful outcome to global trade talks is vital to strengthening the world economy and improving the livelihoods of millions of poor and vulnerable people, the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said today, following the recent collapse of the Doha round of trade liberalization negotiations.
The seven-year-long round of global negotiations, led by the World Trade Organization (WTO), broke down at the end of July after countries failed to reach agreement on a safeguard that would allow developing nations to raise tariffs temporarily in the face of import surges and falling prices.
“It is clear that an agreement was close to being reached that, while not perfect, would nonetheless have been beneficial to developing countries and the world economy,” UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said in a statement issued today.
“It is very desirable that the remaining obstacles to an agreement, especially regarding a special safeguard mechanism for agriculture, be overcome,” he added.
Mr. Dervis noted that while in some cases bilateral and regional trade agreements are beneficial to those participating, they cannot replace a truly multilateral system.
This is especially the case, he said, for developing countries, which can benefit from many of the rules and the dispute settlement mechanism of the multilateral trade regime.
“A balanced, equitable, open and multilateral trading system is desirable, particularly given both the current and foreseeable difficulties of the world economy owing to the financial crisis and high volatility of energy and food prices, which themselves are partly the result of sub-optimal trade policies,” stated Mr. Dervis.
He added that the next few weeks will be critical to revitalizing the negotiations.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed similar sentiments in a statement issued last month, in which he said that “success was particularly important at this juncture when the world faces major development challenges,” including climate change, poverty, increasing protectionism, limited progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the current food, fuel and financial crises.