This time last year WTO trade ministers gathered in Doha, in Qatar, to
consider a mandate for a new round of negotiations.
I came away from that meeting with the firm conviction that existing
notions of trade policy and approaches to trade negotiations – still
promoted by some in Australia – were no longer sufficient nor effective.
Just as we needed to broaden our approach by allowing for the
negotiation of Free Trade Agreements, we also needed to adopt new and
creative approaches to the multilateral system.
I believe the meeting in Doha confirmed a new strategic environment for
the multilateral trading system.
A new strategic environment
The global trade agenda is now much more complex, sophisticated and
Three facts are clear.
- To be successful, and to protect and advance our interests, we are
going to have to seek and maintain alliances across the whole range of
issues, and across the entire membership of the WTO.
- Rich countries cannot make demands of developing country members
without taking into account their concerns – and their bargaining
- And one clear message from my experience at Seattle was the need for
ministers to be engaged personally, through new informal ways to move
the negotiations forward – such as the meeting of trade ministers I
will host in Sydney.
At the beginning of the 1994 Uruguay Round there were 86 members of the
GATT, the predecessor to the WTO.
Today, there are 145 members of the WTO, with the vast majority being
developing economies, including China, which gained entry to the WTO at
Developing countries have found themselves a new voice, and a new
influence, within the organisation, and therefore in the negotiations.
This was demonstrated in Doha – where the mandate for a new round of
negotiations considered by WTO trade ministers reflected developing
country priorities, such as:
- Capacity-building, so that developing countries can participate
fully in the multilateral trading system;
- Special and differential treatment, through measures such as tariff
preferences, and extra time to meet agreed commitments, that
acknowledges the status and needs of developing countries;
- Implementing WTO commitments, especially the obligations of
developed countries to open their markets to products from developing
countries, such as textiles and footwear;
- Confirming provisions for access to pharmaceuticals to fight
HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and;
- Reforming market access and trade-distorting measures, such as
export subsidies, in developed countries, especially in agriculture.
This is an edited version of a Telstra Address given
to the National Press Club, Canberra, on Canberra, 13 November 2002.
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