The Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, said, Wednesday, January 4, that a political spur is needed to advance negotiations in the sphere of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
One possibility would be a January meeting of heads of State – a suggestion already proposed by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to various leaders, including US President George W. Bush, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"If this political spur could come about without the need for a meeting, all the better. But, if a meeting is required, we should not hesitate. We can’t allow the built-in limitations of ministers and negotiators to keep us from moving ahead on something that is so crucial to the whole world, especially the poor countries," Amorim affirmed after a work meeting with the Australian minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer.
According to Amorim, his "impression" is that the negotiators and commissioners have no more maneuvering space. "The decisions that must be made are really difficult, especially for those who are more reluctant when it comes to access to markets."
Amorim remarked that the European Union’s justifications for not opening its markets to agricultural products are gradually losing their legitimacy. He cited as an example the argument that opening European markets would affect poor African countries currently benefited by preferences in these markets.
"After Hong Kong, these arguments have lost their force, since these poor countries themselves, from Africa, Asia, and other places, also demanded greater progress in agriculture," he pointed out. "I believe that it is now really a matter of having some kind of political spur."
Amorim said that it would be premature to speak at this moment about a date and place for a meeting of leaders. But he emphasized: "It must be soon; otherwise, it will have no influence on the machinery of the negotiations."
The current negotiating round was launched in 2001 in Doha, Qatar, for the purpose of establishing trade rules favorable to development. Agriculture, which was excluded from previous negotiations, is at the core of this round.
The agenda includes market access and an end to domestic and export subsidies. So far, however, the only advance was the establishment of 2013 as the deadline for the total elimination of export subsidies, in accordance with an agreement reached at the 6th WTO Ministerial Meeting, held last year in Hong Kong from December 13-18.