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World trade talks continue beyond 2011

Written by Louise van Niekerk & BuaNews

International relations

The Doha Development Round is a round of talks between member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to reach agreements on international trade. It started in November 2001 and has not yet been finalised, because member countries have not been able to agree on certain key issues.

The objective of the Doha Development Round is to lower trade barriers around the world to help increase global trade. The Doha Round began with a meeting of ministers in Doha, Qatar in 2001. Since then, ministerial meetings have taken place in Cancún, Mexico, and in Hong Kong. Related negotiations also took place in Geneva, Switzerland; Paris, France and Potsdam, Germany.

Talks have stalled due to differences on major issues, such as agriculture, industrial tariffs and services.

Plan B

Addressing a media briefing in Pretoria ahead of a meeting of the WTO’s Trade Negotiation Committee in Geneva on 1 June, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, said the Doha Development Round would not be finalised this year. However, a Plan B to support trade to the least developed countries was on the cards.

Part of Plan B could be delivered by the end of this year, he said. This would help to reach agreements in a “smaller package”, while leaving out the trade measures on which agreements could not be reached, Davies said.

It will focus on issues such as customs cooperation, rules about regional trade agreements and fishing subsidies. The primary focus will be to deliver trade benefits to countries from the least developed world.

Free trade wanted

South Africa will focus on deepening trade relations in Africa to help open up trade to more of the least-developed countries. A free trade area between the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the East African Community (EAC) will go a long way to achieving this, said Davies. These three regional economic communities held a meeting in South Africa in June.

South Africa’s membership of the Brics group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) also offers the country major opportunities for trade and development, the Minister said.