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A big success of the developing countries

Nov 26 - Dec 02, 2001

The Commerce Minister, Abdul Razzak Dawood who headed the Pakistan delegation to the 5-day meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) at Doha (Qatar) has termed the conference as balanced one and its decisions reasonable and satisfactory from Pakistan's point of view.

"As a developing country, I feel that what we got from the Doha meeting is reasonable and we will try to get more in the next round which is expected two years from now", he said while addressing a press conference on Friday. The Commerce Minister said that the developed countries have accepted the demand of the developing countries to look into ways to reduce the debt burden on the developing countries. The conference also agreed to discuss the issue of transfer of technology to developing countries in the next general council meeting or WTO. "Taking up of these two issues on the WTO moot was a big success of the developing countries," he added.

The Minister claimed that it was on the suggestion of Pakistan that WTO decided to constitute a working group to examine the debts of developing countries and devise strategy to offload them. In response to another proposal, WTO approved setting up of a working group to study the issue of technology transfer. The ministers agreed to an examination in a working group under the auspices of general council at the relationship between the trade and transfer of technology, and any possible recommendation on steps might be taken within the mandate of WTO to increase the flow of technology to developing countries," Razzak said

He said that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has not agreed to grant extension to Pakistan on elimination of Trade Related Measures (TRIMS) till 2005, but is willing to discuss the plea in the coming next six months. "They have however, granted extension up to 2003, but agree to discuss our request for extension till 2005," he added.

He said that developing countries have problems in agriculture as the developed countries are subsidising their agriculture sector and their goods hurting local farmers. Developing countries were of the view that developed countries should eliminate subsidies besides lowering of tariff on goods of developing countries. "Finally, we had convinced them that they would phase out subsidies gradually".

He said; "We had requested for a 'developing box' so that the developed countries should pay attention to phasing out of subsidies in agriculture which was accepted".

Next area of concern for the developing countries was the implementation issues especially in textile, and deletion programme, Western countries were of the view that deletion programme should be eliminated, but the developing countries contested their case, saying that they should be granted more time, WTO's ministerial conference has shown willingness to examine it in Geneva. "So, the door would remain open for us in this regard".

About the trade and investment issues in the WT0 conference, the commerce minister said that the develop countries have given harsh proposals, which were opposed by the developing countries, and it was decided that the modalities on such an issue could also be discussed in the next round of talks.

Regarding the issue of transparency in government procurement process, he said that the developed countries wanted an equal opportunity with the domestic industry for the procurement of the commodities but 'we did not agree with the proposal in a bid to protect our local industry', he said. Adding that it was decided that preference would be given to domestic industry in such operations while the developed countries could also have the opportunity to remain in competition. However, the final decision in this regard would also be taken in the next round of talks. When asked about the impact of strict enforcement of environmental concerns on developing countries like Pakistan, he said if the developing countries fail to implement environment laws, they would take them to the dispute settlement body of the WTO.

About the anti-dumping laws in the WTO meeting, Dawood said that Japan, United States and European Union stressed the need to have strict rules for dumping and it was also decided this issue could be further discussed in the next round of talks. In a reply to a question regarding 'Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights' (TRIPs), the commerce minister said that the developing countries succeeded to get leverage to control the drug prices in their respective countries so that public health safety could be insured and no multinational gets the power to increase the prices of their products.

The fate of the 4th ministerial meeting of WTO first after the Seattle fiasco was saved by the last minute approved of the members to launch a fresh round of talks. In view of the tough stand taken by the developing countries the European Union insisted on changes in the draft text before a fresh trade round was approved. The WTO ministerial meeting had to pay more attention this time to the Third World countries demands for a fairer deal on trade. The ministerial declaration includes a change to proposed agenda for talks on agriculture in which the EU had opposed phasing out farm export subsidies. The amended text, while keeping the phase, says that ending export subsidies is not an objective of the negotiations at present. On a positive note for the Third World, the immediate start of negotiations on investment and competition policy, transparency in government procurement, and customs procedures though they will begin after the next WTO ministerial meeting in 2003, were deferred for the time being. But it is the resolution of the contentious issue of WTO patents and access to life-saving drugs that reflects positively on the value of the united Third World stance.