WTO system starting to show results

WTO system starting to show results

Johannesburg: A $250 billion (Rs12,12,500 crore) financial package to revive a global trading system crippled by the credit crisis is starting to bear fruit, especially in Asia, the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Saturday.

“Oil is (returning) to the various mechanisms of world trade," WTO director-general Pascal Lamy told Reuters in an interview. “My sense—but it’s a qualitative feeling at this stage—is that notably in regions like Asia, because countries like China stepped in very vigorously, things are picking up."

Lamy also said the Geneva-based body was maintaining its forecast of a 10% contraction in global trade this year as a result of world recession and the freeze-up in trade credit precipitated by financial crisis.

He said WTO members acknowledged South Africa’s argument for special treatment in the current Doha Round of trade talks because of relatively deep cuts in industrial tariffs made under apartheid, which ended 15 years ago.

The Doha Round of talks, to draw up a new framework for world trade, were launched in Qatar in 2001 specifically to help poor countries.

However, a meeting collapsed a year ago and little progress has been made since then, with fundamental disagreements about farming subsidies and the US and emerging countries such as China and India pitted against each other.

In the last one year, political leaders have talked of the need to revive talks, leading Lamy to say the goal of wrapping up the mammoth negotiations some time next year was “do able".

Diplomats and trade experts in Geneva are now on the northern hemisphere summer break, but Lamy said he expected renewed energy come September, especially since an apparent rapprochement between Washington and New Delhi. “From September on, following a number of positive political signals, notably from the US and India, my hope is that...the negotiating activity will move up," he said, adding that the technical issues of concluding such a complex series of negotiations would remain a challenge.