WTO talks to be pursued informally

Geneva, January 20:

About 30 ministers from key trading nations are expected to join an informal WTO meeting on the sidelines of the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland on January 27 and 28, the Swiss economics ministry said on Friday.

The meeting is aimed at discussing the next steps in global trade talks following the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial conference in Hong Kong last month “in order to bring the negotiations to a close by the end of this year”, the ministry said in a statement. The array of ministers “reflects the full spectrum of trade policy views in the framework of the ongoing WTO negotiations”, it added.

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy is due to take part in the meeting. He is also scheduling bilateral meetings with some of the ministers beforehand. A similar mini-ministerial was held on the fringes of the annual meeting of world political and business elites in the Swiss mountain resort last year.

The 25 members attending, including the United States, the European Union and Brazil, sought to kickstart the talks on bringing down more trade barriers by laying out a series of intermediate milestones on the way to Hong Kong. Negotiators from the then 148 member states effectively missed all of them during 2005 amid persistent rifts over the scope and pace of liberalisation moves in agriculture, services and industrial goods.

The Hong Kong meeting concluded with an agreement on an end-date of 2013 to remove farm export subsidies, a swift end to cotton subsidies and the opening of rich country markets to more goods from the world’s poorest nations.

But the 149 trading nations failed to achieve the full framework for the Doha Round that was expected at the beginning of the year.