Rome: The World Trade Organization (WTO) may further reduce its forecast for a 9% fall in global trade this year as the global economic crisis bites, WTO deputy director general Valentine Rugwabiza said on Wednesday.
But despite some protectionist measures by major economies, the severe economic downturn has not had an impact on talks for the Doha Round of negotiations, which appear likely to conclude next year, she said.
“WTO economists are forecasting a contraction of 9% for this year in world trade, which is a big contraction, and even this forecast might need to be revised,” said Rugwabiza, one of WTO’s four deputy directors.
Showing progress: The WTO headquarters in Geneva. WTO’s Valentine Rugwabiza says Doha talks may conclude in 2010. Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
The Rwandan-born diplomat said there had already been some low-level protectionist measures by major economies, such as the reintroduction of dairy subsidies by the US and the European Union, which have had an impact on poorer agricultural nations.
“It is happening within the margins left to members within WTO agreements, but nevertheless some protectionist measures are taking place,” she said. “The most efficient way to resist it is precisely to strengthen multilateral rules through the Doha Round.”
She said a meeting this week in Indonesia of the Cairns Group of agricultural nations—19 nations which account for a quarter of the world’s farm exports—was “very encouraging” because it condemned protectionism and called for a senior technocrats to draft a road map by the summer for a deal on Doha.
“If senior officials meet before the summer to put together a road map...that is going to give us a clear indication of when the round should be concluded,” Rugwabiza said. “All indications are pointing to 2010.”