Recent financial woes highlight need to revive Doha trade talks – UN official

16 September 2008

Progress on the stalled Doha round of trade liberalization talks would not only boost the world economy but also confidence amid current economic and financial uncertainties, such as those being witnessed in the United States banking sector, the head of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said today.

Progress on the stalled Doha round of trade liberalization talks would not only boost the world economy but also confidence amid current economic and financial uncertainties, such as those being witnessed in the United States banking sector, the head of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said today.

“We are witnessing a confluence of different crises this year,” Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi told the annual session of UNCTAD’s governing Trade and Development board, which is currently meeting in Geneva.

“As for Doha, we need this one multilateral effort to be completed successfully. Then we could face these other difficulties with a more optimistic perspective,” he added.

Mr. Panitchpakdi joined the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, in stressing that reaching agreement on the Doha talks – which have been going on for seven years – is important at this time not only because it can strengthen the world economy and livelihoods, but also boost confidence in the midst of shaken economies and financial markets.

“We are told that this is one of the most serious crises we’ve seen in the last 60 or 70 years. There must be some better rules and regulations to help the financial system as rules help the trading system. Unfettered market mechanisms have led to crises every few years,” the UNCTAD chief told the meeting.

Developing countries “can only do so much” in the face of turmoil that is beginning to affect their exports and their economic growth prospects, he added.

Recent crises, including rising food and fuel prices, climate change and threats to the global financial and banking systems, “can only be dealt with at the multilateral level. We need international predictability and stability in the global financial system,” he stated, adding that concluding the Doha round will provide a good foundation for facing these other crises.

Mr. Lamy stated that “there is far too much on the table, particularly for developing countries, to give up on these negotiations.

“A multilateral system offers many solid, important benefits which other ways of trade opening do not offer. Trade is one of the necessary conditions for development – this is clear. Because of this clear view, the pressure for concluding the round on the side of developing countries is now very high,” he told participants.

 

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