Last-minute deal breathes new life into WTO trade talks
By Liu Weiling and Dai Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-19 05:20
HONG KONG: After six days of marathon bargaining, exhausted trade negotiators
reached a last-minute but modest deal yesterday to avert a collapse in global
free trade talks and developing countries tasted the power of solidarity.
security officers, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy leaves the Hong Kong
Convention and Exhibition Center after an overnight meeting Sunday, Dec.
18, 2005. The last-minute negotiations at the WTO summit were focused on
whether delegates could agree on a date to end export subsidies, with
developing nations saying a deal had been struck while the European Union
said there still was no agreement. [AP]
The 150 WTO members approved the Ministerial Declaration last night against a
backdrop of protests by thousands of anti-WTO demonstrators near the convention
The agreement reflected moderate progress on agriculture the most contentious
issue of the talks and steps forward in other areas such as services,
non-agricultural market access and aid for trade.
The wealthy countries agreed they would eliminate farm export subsidies by
2013, according to the declaration.
Although the date is three years later than the original proposal of 2010, a
substantial part of the subsidy cuts will be realized by the end of the first
half of the implementation, which, according to Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso
Amorim, refers to 2010.
Peter Mandelson, the European Union trade commissioner who had been under
fire for unwilling to set an end date for farm export subsidies until Saturday,
called the deal "a genuine advance for the agriculture negotiations and for the
development goals of the Doha Round."
On cotton, an issue of wide concern to African nations, the ministers agreed
that all forms of export subsidies will be eliminated by developed countries in
Meanwhile, developed countries will give duty- and quota-free access to
cotton exporters from least-developed countries from the commencement of the
The revised text also sets April 30, 2006, as a new deadline to work out
formulas for cutting farm and industrial tariffs and subsidies - a key step
towards forging a sweeping global free trade treaty by the end of next year.
The progress achieved yesterday, according to Deputy US Trade Representative
Susan Schwab, laid a platform for successful negotiations in many other areas in
The deal has put the Doha round back on track, WTO Director-General Pascal
Lamy said at the closing ceremony last night. "We are heading in the right
Schwab said the US is comfortable with the text in the declaration, but "this
is not a finished negotiation," and there will be further discussions in Geneva
or other places in the next few months to conclude the Doha negotiations
launched in the capital of Qatar in 2001 before the end of next year.
There is a new political energy to speed up the talks, Lamy said. "There is
no time to rest."
Zhang Xiangchen, director of WTO Affairs Department of the Ministry of
Commerce, said China is pleased to see the meeting achieve positive results, but
sticking points remain in future negotiations and need to be addressed with
Celso Amorim, representing the G20 group of developing countries, said he
would qualify the agreement as "modest, but not insignificant." He told a news
conference: "I think it's a fair compromise."
India's Trade Minister Kamal Nath said the deal focuses on various problems
faced by developing countries, adding the strategy to forge a grand alliance of
110 developing countries had paid off. "G20 has become a major voice for yes or
no," he said.
"The biggest message that we send out of this Hong Kong conference is that
developing countries have been able to articulate together in one voice their
concerns and developed countries need to look at this change in talks on the
future of global trade," he said.
Yet there were plenty of people dissatisfied with the result. The African
Cotton Producers Organization, for example, complained that the deal didn't
touch on the elimination of trade-distorting domestic subsidies of developed
(China Daily 12/19/2005 page1)