CHINA / National
Lamy eyes success in trade talks
Updated: 2008-01-22 07:18
This year is crucial for the outcome of the Doha Round of global trade talks, World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy has said.
"It's an Olympic year for China and maybe an Olympic year for Doha, too," the WTO director-general told China Daily after he met Premier Wen Jiabao and the ministers in charge of commerce, agriculture, finance and foreign affairs last week.
"What I see from WTO members is a desire to try to finish the negotiations, which have been cooking for six years, sometime during this year," he said.
He said his prognosis is "that it is doable as we now have both political and technical conditions to make it possible".
But he said the negotiations, which he likened to preparing "a Chinese meal", will take some time.
The Doha Round, initiated by the WTO in 2001, have been working toward a global trade agreement that would liberalize markets, primarily agriculture, manufacturing and services, to reduce poverty and promote development.
But disagreements persist on such issues as the size of tariff cuts, and what sort of special treatment developing nations should receive.
Lamy said the No 1 issue is agriculture, in which developing nations want the rules - for both subsidies and protection - to be rebalanced in their favor.
Another pressing issue is industrial tariffs, where greater market access is needed in both developing and developed countries. Also on the menu are issues such as services, dumping, trade facilitation and regional trade agreements.
An informal meeting of some trade ministers is scheduled in the next months in Davos, and Lamy expects it to present a "clearer view of what the next steps are".
Asked what China can do in the WTO talks, Lamy said it is a tradeoff for the country.
"Now, China has a more level playing field globally with reduced subsidies and more open markets," he said. "Given the importance of international trade for China, having a strong insurance policy against protectionism is very important."
He explained that it is China's strategic interest to keep foreign markets open and to open them even more, but it also has a number of defensive interests, such as agriculture.
Lamy praised China's performance since the reform and opening up in 1978.
"(China's performance in the past three decades is) very impressive. China is an example of a country which has been steadily developing, steadily reducing poverty, and steadily opening up," he said.
But Lamy said Beijing needs careful management of potential imbalances between the domestic and international economies, between regions and between urban and rural populations.
"China's overall direction is right," he said.