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WTO boss urges Africa not to push on trade talks

Published date:
Tuesday, 16 January 2007

World Trade Organisation Secretary-General Pascal Lamy warned African trade ministers today against pushing too hard in trade negotiations because the failure of the talks would hurt poor economies most.

WTO international trade talks known as the Doha Round were launched in 2001 seeking to increase exports by poor nations.

But they hit a snag in July mainly due to disagreements over farm subsidies in developed countries.

“If Doha negotiations fail, we all know that the biggest losers are African countries,” Lamy told a conference of African Union (AU) trade ministers in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“If the Doha negotiation was eroded, big countries like the US, the EU and China may face small problems, but not as much as Africa.”

Lamy said the US, Belgium, Germany and a conference of Asian heads of state had indicated that they were committed to the success of the negotiations.

The AU ministers insisted there should be a development component of the talks.

“We are strongly opposed to the erosion of the development dimension of the Doha Round and to any attempt to modify the existing mandate,” said a declaration by the ministers, which also urged their major trading partners to be flexible.

A deputy US trade representative at the WTO cited the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) - which gives clothing exports from 37 African countries duty-free access to the US market - as having doubled US imports from the continent since its enactment in 2000.

“Non-oil imports under AGOA, everything from autos to apparel to agricultural goods, leapt from $1,4bn in 2001 to $2,9bn in 2005,” Peter Allgeier said.

The stalled talks have partially resumed in Geneva and a group of ministers is due to meet this month in Davos, Switzerland, in a bid to agree a road map for future discussions.

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