St Petersburg, Russia: Successful completion of the Doha round of trade talks and bringing Russia into the World Trade Organization (WTO) are both achievable, WTO head, Pascal Lamy, said on Sunday. “We need political traction, and negotiators should be instructed to walk the extra mile,” Lamy told an economic forum in St Petersburg. “I believe it’s doable—we are not there yet.”
Lamy’s comments reinforced the upbeat mood at last week’s Group of Eight (G-8) summit, where leaders of the world’s richest nations called for the long-delayed round of global trade talks to reach a prompt conclusion.
Four trade powers—the European Union (EU), the US, India and Brazil—will meet from 14 June in Germany for five days to seek a breakthrough on Doha.
The round was launched in 2001 to boost the stake of developing nations in free trade, but agreement on trade in farm and industrial goods has proved to be elusive.
Russia, which has been negotiating to join WTO since the mid-1990s, remains the largest economy outside the club. Its entry talks are far advanced but are being hampered by friction with the EU.
President Vladimir Putin, addressing the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, accused the West of paying lip service to free trade and said the world needed a “new architecture” to manage international economic relations.
Lamy sympathized, saying WTO needed to be reformed to better suit the interests of fast-growing nations such as Russia and China.
“Is this system OK? No, we have to change it, adapt it and reform it because it was created at a time when the world was different,” said Lamy.
Commenting on Russia’s entry bid, Lamy said it was “a very immediate, short-term challenge”.
“Without Russia, WTO is not really the multilateral institution it wants to be, and without belonging to WTO, Russia has not attained the capital of trust in its future that it needs for its development,” he said.
Lamy met Russian economy minister, German Gref, in St Petersburg. Also in town were US trade representative Susan Schwab, and EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson.
Mandelson said two key obstacles continued to block Russia’s WTO entry bid: Moscow’s imposition of export duties on lumber and a year-old ban on imports of meat from Poland, an EU member since 2004.
“I hope that the government will be able to step back from the moves it has announced,” Mandelson told reporters.
“We definitely want Russia in WTO.