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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 23:03 GMT
After Doha: The future of trade
WEF panel
Contentious issues dominate trade talks
David Schepp

Among the common themes expressed at this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) is one calling for increased trade as a way for poorer nations to raise standards of living.

Contentious issues, however, continue to stand in the way of a new multilateral trade deal despite November's successful launch of trade talks in Doha, it was announced at the New York meeting.

We are opposed to corporate globalisation because we do not believe this is a world where people should come second

Sharan Burrow
Australian Council of Trade Unions
"The final outcome of the Doha Round will be contingent on the fifth ministerial conference next year in Mexico," said Supachai Panitchpakdi, director-general designate of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Mr Panitchpakdi said unless substantial reforms are made by the European Union (EU) in agriculture, the Doha Round could not be considered a developmental round.

But the EU is unlikely to move in that direction unless it finds it has much to gain on trade, environment, investment and competition rules, he said.

Labour issues

Those representing labour issues also remain sceptical any talk of further trade rounds will succeed unless certain issues are addressed by multinational corporations and the governments that deal with them.

"When you have a further trade round that ignores the reality of the backlash from people who don't find that corporate globalisation has delivered them the benefits, then something's got to change," said Sharan Burrow, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

WEF flag
The WEF offered another forum for trade talks
Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Ms Burrow told reporters trade unions are not opposed to globalisation, "it's a reality," she said.

"We are opposed to corporate globalisation because we do not believe this is a world where people should come second," adding that, "the complexities post-Doha are going to be so significant that there is every risk the round will fail".

Less pessimistic on the issue of trade unions was Sweden's trade minister, Leif Pagrotsky, who nevertheless expressed disappointment over not achieving more for human rights at Doha.

"What we need to do is build strategic partnerships," Mr Pagrotsky said.

"Not necessarily partnerships with business but partnerships with others who could be mobilised for the same ends."

Rift of values

Challenges still remain, he said. Trade unions in developed countries do not share the same values as those in developing countries.

"We have not been able to build partnerships with trade unions in places like India [and] Hong Kong," he said.

Sweden's trade minister Leif Pagrotsky
Pagrotsky: 'We need to build strategic partnerships'
Nonetheless, Mr Pagrotsky expressed optimism the next round of trade talks could be concluded in short order - about three years.

"There are appears to be a commitment and an atmosphere of flexibility and compromise that can make this happen."

Trade unionists remain wary of partnerships with corporations, which, labour contends, fail to recognise that human rights, and labour and environmental standards, are as much part of globalisation as trade and services.


Separately, an agricultural-trade task assembled at WEF meetings at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York has called for global trade reform.

The task force represents the first time executives from global food and beverage companies have come together with members of advocacy groups for the poor and research directors to call for joint action on common themes.

Among the proposals are reform proposals for the global trade of agricultural products as well as investment in developing countries to ensure food security and ability to compete more effectively in processed food markets.

"It's really quite a milestone," said Julian Filochowski, director of CAFOD, the UK Catholic aid agency.

Criticism has been levied at rich countries for promoting trade as a way to alleviate poverty without eliminating or adjusting subsidies that prevent developing nations from selling goods in well-developed markets.

Defenders of poor countries point out, for example, that the average $600 annual subsidy given the average cow in the US is far greater than the dollar a day that 60% of the world's population subsists on.

"We need a fair, just trade regime," Mr Filochowski told BBC News Online. "[That] is what many UK non-governmental organisations are campaigning together in the trade-justice movement for, alongside further and deeper, debt relief and meaningful aid."

Sir Ronald Cohen, Apax Partners, BBC's Andrew Walker
On developments at the Forum and what was achieved
See also:

03 Feb 02 | Business
Global economy 'recovering'
03 Feb 02 | Business
Eyewitness: Protest on Fifth Avenue
01 Feb 02 | Business
WEF: New York's big deal
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