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Collapse of WTO talks a major setback

Tim Groser MP
National Party Trade Spokesman

30 July 2008

Collapse of WTO talks a major setback

The collapse of the WTO talks in Geneva, over the highly technical issue of a special safeguard for developing country agricultural tariffs, is very disappointing for New Zealand, says National’s Trade spokesman, Tim Groser.

Mr Groser, the former WTO chair of agricultural negotiations, says a deal would have resulted in the elimination of all export subsidies for New Zealand, major cuts in agriculture and non-agriculture tariffs, and significant cuts in the most distorting forms of agriculture production subsidies.

It would also have paved the way for the prospect of further negotiations to open up service markets for New Zealand exporters.

“In addition, a successful WTO deal would have reinforced New Zealand’s FTA strategy by dealing with issues that no bilaterial FTA can deal with.

“”Beyond expressing my disappointment that talks have come to a standstill, I would also add that it is extraordinary that differences over this matter, known by trade negotiators as the SSM, or Special Safeguard Mechanism, could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“As in all safeguard negotiations, the issue was to find a fair balance between the legitimate need of developing country importers to have a useable safeguard to give temporary relief from import surges, and the long-term interests of agriculture exporters who need to be assured that such safeguards do not evolve into new and permanent trade barriers.

“It is, in my view, inconceivable that the further development of the world trading system will, in the long term, come to a halt over this matter. I am convinced that when the time is right a solution will be found, unlocking the promise of the Doha Development Round.

“In the meantime, recriminations about who is and who is not responsible for the failure are not only useless but damaging. People now need time out. The considerable achievements of many years of negotiations need to be locked in place.

“This round will have to be picked up again next year. Generally, the international trading system finds it difficult agreeing on how to move forward, but it is extremely good at crisis management.

“We are fortunate to have, in WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, a person with the skills, experience, and international networks to manage this most difficult situation.”

ENDS

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