WTO head: Do what’s possible, not what’s ideal
Director general Roberto Azevedo told a media briefing here on Wednesday that it was pushing for “doability” rather than perfection for the Doha Round of trade negotiations in the hope that it would be concluded in the foreseeable future.
“Let’s go for what is doable; let’s not go for what is perfect or for what is desirable. Instead let’s go for what can be done at this point in time,” he said.
“I think that the message is resonating and members are beginning to engage on that basis at this point in time.”
Azevedo, a Brazilian, is on a two-day working visit in the country where he will pay a courtesy call to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and participate in a roundtable session organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia on “The Role of the WTO for the Future”.
The Doha Round, or the Doha Development Agenda, was launched in 2001 and seeks to achieve a global agreement to cut tax and non-tariff barriers on international trade.
It is to specifically address the marginalisation of least-developed countries in international trade and to improve their participation in the multilateral trading system.
However, negotiations faced a stand-off from protectionist disputes between rich and poor countries.
The Bali package, which was agreed in December 2013, proved a catalyst and a step-forward for the Doha Round.
It delivered outcomes from streamlining customs procedures globally to advancing disciplines and commitments on some agricultural issues, to new support mechanisms and generating new opportunities for the poorer countries.
“It has to be in the foreseeable future. We can’t afford to wait another 18 years to deliver the next multilateral agreement. We have to do it quicker and faster,” he said.
“At the end of the day, if we cannot do it, members have to realise that we cannot do it and then look at what we can do in the presence of the impossibility of concluding the Doha Round,” Azevedo added.
He said it was not in WTO’s interest to maintain the previous status quo.
“I am positive at this point in time with the perspective that members have changed the way they had been engaging. They are talking to each other, which is something they were not doing before.
“Now they are talking to each other, they are getting out of their comfort zones, they are in a solution-finding mode. Is it going to be difficult? Yes, it is going to be extremely difficult, but it is possible. We are moving now from an objective of trying to get a perfect deal to now getting the possible deal,” he said.
The WTO currently has 161 members, accounting for 97% of global trade.
Meanwhile, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said Asean economic ministers had agreed to reconvene the Asean Trade Facilitation Joint Consultative Committee.
Apart from addressing trade barriers in intra-Asean trade, the committee will likely be putting work programmes together assist Asean members in implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
“We might be the fifth country to rectify the Trade Facilitation Agreement. Also, we have our own trade facilitation agenda and that’s moving fine,” he said.