November 28, 2011

South Africa to stick to WTO mandate, minister Davies stresses

South Africa will urge member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) not to hijack the development goals of the Doha round at the upcoming Ministerial conference in Geneva, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said. According to him, there was consensus among developing nations in Africa, as well among Brazil, Russia, India and China, that the development agenda as agreed on during the 2001 Doha meeting, must not be compromised in favour of the interests of developed countries. „We will be going in there with a clear message that the developmental mandate remains central and we need to deliver on it,“ Davies said.

The minister was speaking during a consultative conference between the government, labour and business to decide on South Africa's response to the upcoming World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference (MC8) to be held in Geneva from December 15 to 17. The developmental agenda was agreed during talks in Doha in 2001. It relates to issues important to developing countries like reforming trade rules for agriculture, and duty-free, quota-free access for the least-developed countries (LDCs) in the global trading regime.

However, Davies said developed countries were trying to move away from developmental issues and place issues important to them, such as climate change, on the table. "We are very disturbed that the US and others have now put forward a whole set of new proposals to move away from development mandate... and instead want new issues -- climate change, energy, investment... which threaten to shift attention to these issues which have a greater appeal to developed countries than developing countries," he said. "Our view as South Africa is we still believe the development issues are fundamental... any progress has to address them, and we are not going to be hijacked in a different direction."
Ambassador Faizel Ismail, South Africa's trade envoy to the WTO, said the US and Europe had raised new demands to those agreed in Doha. "They are completely abandoning the Doha mandate which recognised differences between developing and developed countries," he said. Davies said even if countries could not deliver on the Doha mandate now, they needed to agree to pick up on it later. He added that it was imperative that the Doha mandate guided the Ministerial conference.

The Doha round contemplated the establishment of development packages for the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), but this had not been implemented. Developed countries should further, not seek to draw benefits from aid being dispensed to the LDCs, which adds to the ineffectiveness of implementing the Doha imperatives. The Doha Round of trade negotiations among members of the WTO were launched at the WTO's Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001. The negotiations aim to reform the international trading system through the introduction of lower trade barriers and revised trade rules. (sapa)

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