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Trade Policy Roundtable

Doha Round Agenda and Developing the Global Trading System (April 18, 2002)

LAST November the Doha Round negotiations were launched on two tracks.  On one track are market-access negotiations and systemic reforms.  On the other track are preparatory studies on “the Singapore issues” and other topics.  There is also an unspoken “track three” of issues that were mentioned in the Doha ministerial declaration, but are being addressed, more appropriately, in the World Trade Organization’s institutional machinery.

At the Doha ministerial conference, three and a half years had elapsed since it was agreed in principle at the second WTO ministerial, held in Geneva, to prepare for a new round of multilateral trade negotiations.  After “the Seattle fiasco”, as the third ministerial is remembered, there was a year-long hiatus.  Serious discussion of a new round resumed early last year and so securing agreement on a negotiating agenda in nine months was a remarkable achievement, which owed much to the skillful diplomacy of Stuart Harbinson, as chairman of the WTO General Council, and to the determination of Mike Moore, the WTO Director-General

By contrast to the earlier eight GATT rounds, the first WTO round has to take fully into account the interests of developing nations,  now four fifths of the WTO membership. Today the developing countries recognize their stake in the new WTO system, as they did not in the old GATT system, and have to be persuaded that proposals for further change are going to be in their long-term economic interests.

Governments have to address “unfinished business” on long-standing  grievances –  including textiles and agriculture.  But they also have to look ahead if the WTO system is to keep abreast of developments as the world economy continues to integrate.  Thus the “market-access” track is closely tied to the “studies” track on extending the WTO system to investment, competition, public procurement and trade facilitation.  Progress on the first is not likely to be made until there is agreement to proceed on the second.  And neither might happen until there is greater confidence in the WTO system as such.    

All of it, moreover, is pie in the sky until the U.S. Administration has “fast track” trade negotiating authority in hand.  One of the lessons of the previous Administration is that for want of  U.S. trade-negotiating authority the work of the WTO lost momentum, the process of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation lost direction and the negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas lost impetus.  Seeing little possibility of progress being made for a while at multilateral level, notwithstanding the formal launch of the Doha Round agenda, governments in Latin America and East Asia are substantially focusing on bilateral and regional trade negotiations, which do not have to wait on the United States. 

The purpose, then, of the half-day meeting outlined below is to review the situation and what is really required for the Doha Round negotiations to get down to business. While the above issues are important, there has to be more in the negotiations to engage the interest of manufacturers, such as the elimination of industrial tariffs.  Big negotiations need a big objective to inspire the necessary political commitment to their success – both domestically and at inter-governmental level.

AGENDA

12.00   Registration and Luncheon in the Litigation Center (Concourse Level)

1300    Welcome       Clayton Yeutter (Of Counsel, Hogan & Hartson; former Secretary of Agriculture and earlier U.S. Trade Representative)

1310    KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Lessons of the Consultations  in Launching the Doha Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations

Speaker         Stuart Harbinson (Hong Kong’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and Chairman of the Negotiating Group on Agriculture; until recently Chairman, WTO General Council)

14.00   SECOND SESSION

Launching the Doha Round Negotiations  on Two Tracks and the Development of  the WTO System

Speaker         Hugh Corbet (President, Cordell Hull Institute; former Director of the Trade Policy Research Centre, London, and Managing Editor of The World Economy, Oxford and Boston)

 15.00  Refreshments

 15.30   THIRD SESSION

Strengthening the Oversight, Dispute-settlement and Rule-making Functions of the WTO System

Speaker         John M. Weekes (Chairman, Global Trade Practice, APCO Worldwide Inc., Geneva; previously Canada’s Ambassador to the WTO; former Chairman of the WTO General Council)

 16.30   FOURTH SESSION

Domestic Consensus and Inter-Governmental Support for the Integration of the World Economy

Speaker         Harald B. Malmgren (President, Malmgren Group, Warrenton; and Chairman, Malmgren O’Donnell Ltd, London and Washington; former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative)

Notes on Speakers

HUGH CORBET, President of the Cordell Hull Institute, was the Director of the Trade Policy Research Centre in London in 1968-89 and convened eight “informal” roundtable meetings of trade ministers, senior officials, business leaders and independent experts as part of the effort to launch what turned out to be the Uruguay Round negotiations.

STUART HARBINSON, Hong Kong’s longtime Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization, was until recently the Chairman of the WTO General Council and played the key role in securing agreement on the Doha Round agenda.  He is now chair-man of the negotiating group on agriculture.  

HARALD B. MALMGREN, President of the Malmgren Group, business consultants, Warrenton, was Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in the early 1970s and played a major part in drafting the Trade Act of 1974 – which introduced the concept of “fast track” negotiating authority – and in launching the Tokyo Round negotiations.

JOHN M. WEEKES, Chairman of the Global Trade Practice at APCO Worldwide Inc. in Geneva, was previously Canada’s Ambassador to the WTO where he was Chairman of the General Council in 1988-99.  He was earlier Canada’s chief negotiator in the talks that led to the North American Free Trade Agreement.  

CLAYTON YEUTTER, Of Counsel at Hogan & Hartson, played a major part, as the U.S. Trade Representative, in launching the Uruguay Round negotiations and then, as Secretary of Agriculture, in carrying them out.  Earlier, he was President of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, having held senior positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

 

The Cordell Hull Institute’s Trade Policy Roundtable is sponsored by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Arnold & Porter, O’Melveny & Myers, Steptoe & Johnson and Wilmer Cutler & Pickering