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Chamber Concerned About Breakdown In Negotiations

25 July 2006

Chamber Deeply Concerned About Breakdown In WTO Negotiations

The Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce today registered its strong concern about the inability of major players in the WTO to bridge differences and their decision to suspend negotiations until some unspecified time in the future.

“Clearly we hope that negotiations can resume as quickly as possible, but we can’t see much chance of this happening in the short term”, said Charles Finny, Chief Executive Officer. “Our own analysis suggested that the talks could be kept going with a bit of flexibility shown on all sides. Unfortunately, there was not sufficient leadership shown by the major players over the weekend to allow any flexibility to be exercised.”

“While we are concerned about latest developments, we are not surprised. We have been concerned about the state of negotiations for some time. In particular we have been concerned about the dearth of real liberalisation being offered in the services component of the negotiations – the area of greatest importance for the Wellington regional economy. Even New Zealand, the country which stands to gain more than any other from an outcome from the wider negotiations, has yet to offer any real liberalisation on services. Yet without achieving good gains in areas such as services, how could anyone really expect the EU, the US and others to go further in politically difficult areas such as agriculture?”, Charles Finny asked.

“We genuinely hope that the latest developments mean a delay, not the end of these negotiations. They do offer an excellent opportunity to ensure that the global economy continues to grow, and that developing countries no longer suffer from unfair competition from richer nations who continue to subsidise both domestic production, and exports of agricultural commodities.

Wealthy countries have also tended to build higher tariff and other regulatory barriers at the border for the types of products that poorer countries are most competitive at producing.

These negotiations have been all about leveling the playing field for the developing economies.

They have also offered an unprecedented opportunity to introduce new disciplines designed to benefit the global environment. Global disciplines on fish subsidies – the root cause of over fishing – are needed urgently. These negotiations had such an outcome in prospect”, Charles Finny said.

“While we do not see failure of these talks as necessarily threatening the future of the WTO, failure would without doubt undermine the WTO’s credibility.

This would be very negative for New Zealand. A proper functioning, rules based multilateral trading system, is incredibly important for a small trading nation located so far away from so many important markets. We need to do everything we can to avoid failure.

The Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce will not only be working hard to support the New Zealand Government in efforts to revive these negotiations, we will also be working with the international Chamber network, and the Global Services Coalition to ensure that larger players undertake a fundamental reassessment of the WTO negotiating positions”, Charles Finny concluded.

ENDS

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