Lamy: China fulfilling WTO commitments well
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-09-06 09:18

Q: Is there a likelihood for the Doha Round to resume next year?

A: There is a possibility. There is no certainty. My own role is to test the political will and then to make sure position is adjusted. It may not happen on the first day. This sort of thing probably needs a bit of pre-cooking, quiet diplomacy.

Q: What kind of timetable are you looking at?

A: An important part in the timetable is the time limit for the US trade officials' capacity to negotiate, which ends in the middle of next year. It may and may not be extended. It's an open question. But clearly, it will be difficult to extend it without some sort of a notion in the system that a deal is in the making, which is why the crucial period is some time between mid-November and the beginning of next year.

Q: It's almost a consensus that the EU and US have huge political difficulties in making concessions on agricultural issues. And it seems to me that the only thing that can persuade the major players to go back to negotiation is moral pressure people are talking about major WTO members betraying the poor countries in making the negotiating collapse. Do you agree with that? And now how big is that moral pressure?

A: Obviously it is big. We need the system to be rebalanced in favour of developing countries. That is one of the mottoes of the negotiation. We have to remove obstacles to trade. We have to do that in a way that makes the system more development-friendly.

On agriculture, we are not in a situation where it is a problem between the US and EU. It's one between US, EU and a number of developing countries. It's not just a North-South issue, it is also a North-North, South-South issue on things like market access. We know the sensitivity of India about this.

It's true that the US and EU have to make an effort on subsidies. But it's also true that this round should not result in new obstacles to trade in agriculture, which the US fears about some proposals on the table. It's a trade-off. It is about finding the right proportion between the effort which the US and EU have to pay and the effort which a number of developing countries who have sensitivities on this issue have to pay.

Q: What do you think China can do to push the progress of the Doha Round?

A: China has a point. Agriculture is the most difficult area in the negotiation. But, in agricultural subsidies, China has fewer problems than others. China gives much less in subsidies to its farmers than the US or EU. China's agricultural and industrial tariffs are much lower than India or Brazil's tariffs. China does not have a lot to pay in this regard, although in areas like industrial market access, agricultural market access and service (market) opening, China will have to pay an effort, but which is in proportion to China's status as a developing country.

Yes, China has its role, China will get a lot from the negotiation. Industrial tariffs are reduced in the US and EU and in many emerging developing countries. That's a net plus for China.

Q: From your meetings with Chinese officials, do you think they agree with you on what you've said?

A: Yes. I think there is a sort of conscience in the Chinese system that in front of surging protectionism here and there, China is probably one of the most vulnerable, given the huge importance of trade to its growth and its huge trade surplus.

The WTO as an insurance policy against protectionism is extremely valuable to China. China is one of the main beneficiaries of this insurance policy. This country has to adjust to commitment requirements, and so on. That's true. But the other side of the coin is that China benefits from the rules and from the system. Others have to treat China fairly. The fact is that the political value for the Chinese authorities of a vibrant multilateral system is very high. That is basically what I have been told until now.


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