Keith Rockwell, World Trade Organization’s spokesman, has admitted that a new general agreement of the 153 members will be hard to achieve in the current world.
By Alfonso Campo Macía
The negotiations of the Doha Round, initiated 10 years ago, which includes more than 20 issues, seem to be endless. The World TradeOrganization, an institution that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade, has been trying for more than a decade to develop a new agreement that substitutes the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) created in 1947. The circumstances move now to geopolitics since “the world is not the same as 10 years ago”, Mr Rockwell said.
The WTO, that pursues an efficient allocation ofresources as well as surveillance and monitoring global trade policy, pretends to create with the Doha Round “a more equitable and relevant trading system more beneficial for developing countries”, Mr Rockwell stated.
Emerging countries are demanding much more from the Agreement since they have been gaining economic and political power progressively during the last decade. But Americans andEuropeans, that have set the tone over the last decades, don’t agree on losing their main role in international governance, where emerging countries are requesting their position.
The Asian giant
China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the year when the Doha Round negotiations started and when China was considered as an emerging country. Nowadays, China is the second largest economy andthe world largest exporter of manufactured products. Mr Keith Rockwell points out the perception problem that comes out here: “Developed countries see China as one of them, but there are a lot of poor people in the country”.
The United States of America claim that China should act accordingly as the second largest economy that it is. They maintain that China is getting a better deal than theydo. But China argues that they still fit in the definition of emerging country.
Even so, Mr Rockwell explains that the Asian giant has shown one of the greater flexibilities. “The Chinese market is very open. China is the second largest importers. They import more than a trillion US dollars every year”, he says. They have cut their tariffs by 25 percent when developing countries are cutting by10%. Moreover, agricultural tariffs are even lower for China than for the European Union.
The main problem that Doha faces is the single undertaking, what means that nothing is agreed till everything is agreed. In the WTO all members have the same power and as soon as one country –no matter the size- objects to an agreement, this one is not approved. “No one can disagree and it is verydifficult”, Rockwell confesses.
But the WTO is not just the Doha Round. Mr Rockwell is very happy when it comes to explain the other actions that the WTO is developing.
Coalition of the willing
Unlike Doha Round, an option where there is no need to everyone’s agreement is the coalition of the willing. In this context, two main agreements have been made. One is the ‘Information Technology Agreement’that aims to lower all taxes and tariffs on information technology by signatories to zero. The number of participants has grown to 70, representing about 97 per cent of world trade in information technology products.
The other one is the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). Aiming to fight corruption, it is based on the principles of openness, transparency and non-discrimination, whichapply to Parties' procurement covered by the Agreement, to the benefit of Parties and their suppliers, goods and services. The GPA is a close agreement and it has 42 members and a list of observers. Mr Rockwell advances that “we are close to modernize this Agreement, written in 1994, in our next ministerial conference in December, where China is very likely to join it what means to open a...