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Schröder for rapid resumption of WTO talks


Schröder for rapid resumption of WTO talks

Following the failure of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Cancún, Mexico Chancellor Gerhard Schröder issued an appeal to all parties concerned to resume talks as soon as possible. In the course of the conference, held September 10 to 14, the 146 WTO member countries were unable to reach an agreement on reducing and eliminating agricultural subsidies as well as initiating talks on a global investment agreement.

Speaking in Berlin on September 15 Schröder said: "We regret the fact that it was not possible to achieve a comprehensive agreement at the WTO conference in Cancún," adding that an opportunity had been lost to create global impetus for growth and employment.

Schröder noted that "the end of Cancún does not mean the end of this WTO round." He pleaded in favor of resuming the talks as soon as possible at the senior official level, saying that the possibility should not be ruled out of resuming talks at the ministerial level in the near future. He stated that Germany has a priority interest in eliminating trade barriers in the world.

"Lost opportunity for world trade and for the developing countries "

Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement referred to the outcome of the conference that was supposed to reduce international trade barriers "a lost opportunity for world trade and in particular a lost opportunity for the developing countries. We were hoping to conclude agreements here that would have led to a gradual reduction of subsidies, particularly in the agricultural sector, and step by step to an opening of markets in Europe and America." Clement said this opportunity was lost because rhetoric won out over reason. He noted that it was his impression that there were too many countries involved who did not want the conference to succeed, who are fundamentally against organized and regulated conditions in world trade, and who were looking for and unfortunately found an opportunity to frustrate these efforts. Clement said it will only make sense to hold a further conference if it can be kept free of ideology and rhetoric and if talks can be conducted in a businesslike fashion.

Agriculture Minister Renate Künast expressed her regret at the failure of the talks and added on behalf of the German delegation: "Those who are celebrating this outcome are doing so at the expense of the poor."

Decisions have to be unanimous

All WTO decisions must be based on a consensus of the members. Since a number of Third World countries withdrew from the negotiations on September 14, the conference ended without an agreement. Cancún was supposed to produce a progress report and a roadmap for further talks aimed at liberalizing world trade.

Emerging countries such as Brazil, India, China, and South Africa as well as agricultural exporters such as Australia have proven to be serious players in competition with the northern industrial countries. The high subsidies paid in the United States and the European Union are criticized for distorting competition. The EU is seeking a reduction of import tariffs on industrial goods and better protection for foreign investments. Positions remained entrenched and an agreement was not reached.

This was the second time in the history of the WTO (created in 1995) that its highest decision-making body, the Ministerial Conference (meets every two years), ended in failure. The conference held in Seattle in 1999 was broken off in the wake of rioting by anti-globalization activists.

NGOs excluded from talks

Speaking in Berlin on September 15 Schröder said: "We regret the fact that it was not possible to achieve a comprehensive agreement at the WTO conference in Cancún," adding that an opportunity had been lost to create global impetus for growth and employment.

Schröder noted that "the end of Cancún does not mean the end of this WTO round." He pleaded in favor of resuming the talks as soon as possible at the senior official level, saying that the possibility should not be ruled out of resuming talks at the ministerial level in the near future. He stated that Germany has a priority interest in eliminating trade barriers in the world.

"Lost opportunity for world trade and for the developing countries "

Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement referred to the outcome of the conference that was supposed to reduce international trade barriers "a lost opportunity for world trade and in particular a lost opportunity for the developing countries. We were hoping to conclude agreements here that would have led to a gradual reduction of subsidies, particularly in the agricultural sector, and step by step to an opening of markets in Europe and America." Clement said this opportunity was lost because rhetoric won out over reason. He noted that it was his impression that there were too many countries involved who did not want the conference to succeed, who are fundamentally against organized and regulated conditions in world trade, and who were looking for and unfortunately found an opportunity to frustrate these efforts. Clement said it will only make sense to hold a further conference if it can be kept free of ideology and rhetoric and if talks can be conducted in a businesslike fashion.

Agriculture Minister Renate Künast expressed her regret at the failure of the talks and added on behalf of the German delegation: "Those who are celebrating this outcome are doing so at the expense of the poor."

Decisions have to be unanimous

All WTO decisions must be based on a consensus of the members. Since a number of Third World countries withdrew from the negotiations on September 14, the conference ended without an agreement. Cancún was supposed to produce a progress report and a roadmap for further talks aimed at liberalizing world trade.

Emerging countries such as Brazil, India, China, and South Africa as well as agricultural exporters such as Australia have proven to be serious players in competition with the northern industrial countries. The high subsidies paid in the United States and the European Union are criticized for distorting competition. The EU is seeking a reduction of import tariffs on industrial goods and better protection for foreign investments. Positions remained entrenched and an agreement was not reached.

This was the second time in the history of the WTO (created in 1995) that its highest decision-making body, the Ministerial Conference (meets every two years), ended in failure. The conference held in Seattle in 1999 was broken off in the wake of rioting by anti-globalization activists.

NGOs excluded from talks

For non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who expressed criticism in advance of the conference the outcome was a success. Representatives of NGOs were excluded from the talks on September 11 following loud protests, the suicide of a Korean farmer, and incidents such as a Greenpeace activist throwing genetically modified corn at deputy US trade representative Peter Allegeier.

The main fear of NGOs is that developing and emerging countries could lose parts of their national sovereignty as a consequence of a further liberalization of foreign direct investments. They have expressed criticism of "power politics", i.e. stronger countries trying to pressure weaker countries into accepting agreements. The WTO organization has been criticized by NGOs for a lack of democratic legitimacy.

The next WTO Ministerial Conference is scheduled to take place in Hong Kong in 2005.


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