Wednesday, 4 February 2009

President Arroyo to WEF: Successful conclusion of DOHA round needed to alleviate economic downturn

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2009 | FOREIGN RELATIONS
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=23481

DAVOS -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the global economic meltdown has accentuated the need for the successful conclusion of the stalled Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) here, the President stressed that the success of the Doha Development Round of the WTO talks could be an important factor in addressing the global economic downturn.

Ambassador Manuel Teehankee, a member of the Philippine mission to the WTO in Geneva, said the President’s urgent message was that the world economic and political leaders that gathered here for this year’s WEF meeting must not “let the financial crisis distract us from medium and long-term projects that the global multi-lateral institutions are involved in.”

The Doha talks “must continue, must be completed, and that is where the interest of the developing countries can take their rightful place in the global structure of the economy,” President Arroyo said during the panel discussion on “rebooting the global economy” last Saturday.

She was one of six panelists at the discussion moderated by Matthew Winkler, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News.

Her co-panelists were Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Joseph Stiglitz, professor of Columbia University, USA; John Monks, secretary-general of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) based in Brussels; Yoshihiko Miyauchi, chairman and chief executive officer of Orix Corp. in Japan; and Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The conclusion of the Doha Round was one of three suggestions proffered by President Arroyo on re-energizing the world economy. The two other proposed “solutions” were for “a fundamental reform of the global financial regulation,” and the expansion of the group of finance ministers and central bankers of the world’s leading economies "into a G20 or even a G30.”

The Doha Development Round is the trade-negotiation round of the WTO which seeks to lower trade barriers around the world and enable countries to increase trade globally.

Started in 2001, the Doha Development Round remains deadlocked over such issues as trade remedies, agriculture subsidies, industrial tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

In an interview on Sunday (Feb. 1) in Klosters, where the Philippine delegation to the WEF was billeted, Teehankee said that “… keeping markets open is a necessary precondition to fostering renewed global growth and recovery.”

“There was a breakdown (of WTO talks) in December, but progress was made towards 80-90 percent of the modalities of the new trade rules (of the WTO); so the current situation is the Doha round could be concluded if there is enough political will.

“And as the G20 Washington Summit did call for, there should be an early conclusion to the Doha Development Round,” Teehankee said.

“The President further added, given that this is a development round, that this could be an example whereby the western powers, the developed world, could deliver on the development promise as part of the global recovery that we are trying to achieve,” he added.

The completion process could be hastened, he said, with a “signal from the Obama administration that they are willing to pursue further the development round.”

“As reported by… various trade ministers, including Brazil’s trade minister and Indonesia’s trade minister, we are very close, 90 percent, to finishing all the modalities in agriculture.

“If completed, the Doha Development Round will lead to tariff savings and tariff-cutting in developed countries, as well as in other developing countries, which will increase market access both for agriculture products and industrial products throughout the world.

“Of course, the Philippines, together with other countries, will also offer some concessions in services opening and also tariff openings, subject, however, to special development flexibilities that the Philippines has negotiated,” he said.

Teehankee stressed that under the “leadership of President Arroyo, the government is in dialogue with our private sector and it has been the shared policy that keeping markets open and government assistance and support for particular affected industries or sectors is the best way.”

This is “because as many countries have experienced, keeping the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region open has actually led to greater growth for the Philippines,” he said.

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