World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin - Special Edition

Week ending 31 July 2006

Doha Round Suspended

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy recommended the suspension of negotiations on 24 July following the failure of a meeting of G6 ministers (EU, US, Australia, Brazil, India and Japan) in Geneva to make progress on the Round.  While Mr Lamy did not set a date for negotiations to resume, he noted that Members would need to show a willingness to move from entrenched positions before this could happen and that Members use the time to reflect on and re-evaluate their positions.

The uncertainty for the Round's future is of serious concern to Australia.  Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade Mark Vaile, who attended the G6 Ministerial, expressed disappointment at the failure of key players to agree on cuts to agricultural and industrial tariffs and reductions in farm subsidies.  Mr Vaile described the breakdown as not only a missed opportunity for Australia's industries but also for developing countries which stood to gain substantially from agricultural trade reform.

However, Mr Vaile noted that no deal was better than a "Doha-Lite" outcome which did not deliver commercially-meaningful opportunities for Australian industry.

Cuts to agricultural tariffs and subsidies remain central to the current impasse.  Without movement on agricultural trade reform there will be no progress on opening markets in industrial products and services.

The Round was launched in 2001 to achieve a fairer and more open global trading environment primarily by expanding market access and creating new real trade flows in agriculture, industrial products and services.

Australia remains committed to these objectives and will be pushing for WTO Members to re-engage in the negotiations as soon as possible.  A successful conclusion to the Doha negotiations remains the Government's top trade priority.

The 20th Anniversary Cairns Group Ministerial in Cairns on 20 September now looms as an important opportunity for key players to work towards putting the Round back on track.  Australia will also look to other forums, such as APEC, to push for a resumption in talks as soon as possible.

Mr Vaile's Informal Statement to WTO Members in Geneva on 24 July and media release of 24 July are attached.

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Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile
Informal Statement to WTO Members
24 July 2006

Director General - regrettably I must agree with the analysis and suggestions you make for the path ahead. In so doing I want to acknowledge and thank you for the immense effort you have made to support the objectives of all Members in these negotiations, and to help us make progress in the Round.

Clearly we are disappointed with our failure to make the necessary progress in agriculture. Whether we call it a setback, a failure or a crisis, clearly the Round is hanging by a thread.

This denies us not just the benefits of agricultural reform but also the important trade gains that the Round promises for industrial tariff cuts, services liberalization and strengthening of the rules.

At this point we need to step back and reflect on the endeavour in which we have been engaged these last few years.

A round to advance and complete the process of reform of world agricultural trade has been something that the Cairns Group has worked for over many years. We now have almost a decade invested in this round. It took years to see this round launched. And we have been seeking to make progress for 5 years. This has been a difficult and rocky road to where we are now. Clearly there is some way ahead of us to bring the round to conclusion.

We have made such an effort because what we seek is something far-reaching and ambitious. What the Cairns Group wants is fundamental reform of world agriculture, in all its dimensions - market access, export competition, and domestic support. This is necessary to achieve a durable structure for reform.

Achieving fundamental reform is obviously not something that can be satisfied with superficial or partial reforms. If we have learnt anything in the past few days and months it is that there is no low-ambition path to success in this Round - this is not just a slogan; it has proven to be a practical reality.

But, Director General, we remain strongly of the view that anything short of effective cuts, meaningful disciplines and real new trade flows will not command the necessary political consensus.

I can assure all of you that Australia has worked assiduously and constructively with its Cairns Group colleagues, indeed with all Members, for an ambitious outcome to this round and that we will not be lessening our effort. I can accept that agreement on modalities is not within immediate reach, but I cannot agree that the round is suspended for some indefinite time.

This is not the time for finger pointing. But it remains fundamentally the case that we have to remove all the distortions in world agricultural markets. Progress here is the key to unlocking the Round's development potential and boosting world economic growth.

We launched this round in 2001 in the climate of a high level of ambition by all of us to achieve both a strong development outcome and to succeed in an important multilateral effort to liberalise global trade.

Today, 5 years later, both these objectives remain as important as ever.

To keep faith with our domestic constituency and our moral obligation to the developing world we must commit to continue our shared objective to deliver the Doha mandate.

Media Release
24 July 2006
Trade Talks Suspended - DOHA Round Hanging by a Thread

WTO Trade talks, launched in 2001, have been suspended and the Doha Round of trade negotiations is now hanging by a thread after intensive meetings between a group of six major players including Australia, the United States, the European Union, Brazil, India and Japan were unable to un-block discussions.

Trade Minister, Mark Vaile, said that "while the outcome was disappointing, no outcome was better than a poor outcome". "Doha Lite - short hand for a less ambitious outcome in the round - was never an option for Australia".

The Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries, which is chaired by Australia, has sought for twenty years for root and branch reform of world agricultural trade, especially market access, export competition, and domestic support. Anything short of effective cuts, meaningful reform and real trade flows was never going to be sufficient to complete this round.

"This is a difficult time but we cannot shirk our responsibility to bring this round to a successful conclusion", Mr Vaile said. "This round was launched with the aim to reform world agricultural markets, continue liberalisation of trade in industrial products and services and lift developing countries out of poverty. We have that same ambition today".

Mr Vaile said "this round was launched to expand market access and this remains our core objective. The value of what we do will be judged by the new commercial opportunities created. The round is not yet over".

While agriculture is at the centre of the round, it is also the key to unlocking new market opportunities for industrial products and services. Australia remains committed to high ambition in all areas of the negotiations. The WTO remains Australia's number one trade priority.

Contact Us:

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