Geneva: The global trading system will face added political strain as the economic crisis cuts output further and pushes up unemployment, World Trade Organization (WTO) director general Pascal Lamy said on Tuesday.
He told the general council of WTO that international rules umpired by the organization had added importance as protectionist temptations flourish in the crisis.
“While, according to some, we may be seeing the bottom of the economic crisis, we have not yet seen its full social impact, which will inevitably trigger political pressures on the trade front,” Lamy said, according to a text of his speech. “I believe that the ‘stress test’ of the multilateral trading system is still to come.”
It is important for WTO to maintain its monitoring of national trade measures to warn of protectionist developments, and for WTO members to conclude the long-running Doha Round to free world trade, he said. Lamy was speaking after a group of leading exporters among WTO’s 153 members called for a Doha deal, building on nearly eight years of negotiations to help fight against protectionism.
The multilateral talks were launched in late 2001 in the Qatari capital to help poor countries prosper through trade, but have faltered repeatedly. The most recent stumbling block came in July last year when the US pushed for a deal providing new opportunities for American businesses, while big emerging countries such as India insisted on protecting their farmers and young industries.
Lamy told the WTO membership that the political atmosphere in the negotiations had improved this year even though the economic crisis was getting worse. “We have seen an increasing level of political engagement and clear signals of renewed commitment and support for a rapid conclusion of the Doha Round,” he said.
Lamy also listed several forthcoming international meetings where leaders and trade ministers would be able to negotiate Doha on the sidelines.