Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization, urged members not to abandon efforts to achieve trade liberalization, following the collapse of the Doha Round of global trade negotiations in late July. The talks broke down over the issue of a "special safeguard mechanism" (SSM) for developing countries, which would allow them temporarily to raise tariffs in the event of import surges or price falls. Specifically, the dispute centered on cases involving import surges, where tariffs would exceed commitments made by WTO countries in the Uruguay Round of talks, which took place between 1986 and 1994. Members had already accepted the SSM in principle, but could not agree on this one potential application of the mechanism. Lamy said the failure to reach agreement should not be allowed to cancel out the "thousands of hours of negotiation and serious political investment by the members of the WTO." The group had already reached consensus on a number of key issues related to market access for agricultural and non-agricultural goods, as well as in the contentious area of services. Lamy called on WTO members to overcome the obstacles created by the impasse, even though it had essentially brought the Doha talks to an end. "Our immediate priority is to reaffirm our commitment to the multilateral trading system, which comes out dented this week," he said. "All ministers present here over the last 10 days have underlined how vital this system is, in terms not just of trade but also of international stability." Some members called for implementation of items to which they had already agreed, including duty-free and quota-free market access for least-developed countries and a new round of trade aid. Some suggested that the collapse of the talks was due to the way that the negotiations were structured, focusing on smaller groups of countries rather than the full membership.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.