Current Affairs

Current Affairs


Dialogue on Trade Negotiations back on Track

Friday, October 10, 2003

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, K.D. Knight

Following the collapse of the 5th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, K.D. Knight, has reported that the dialogue was back on track.

In a statement to Parliament on Tuesday (Oct. 7), Minister Knight said he was pleased that "the discussions with our partners in the European Union (EU) were positive and productive both in terms of the response to the outcome of the Cancun meeting, as well as in advancing our own negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)".

At a special session of Ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) in Brussels on October 1 and 2, which preceded and set the stage for the successful 2nd Ministerial Meeting on the Negotiation of ACP/EU Partnership Agreements, Minister Knight said that the opportunity was provided to review the Cancun meeting and plan ahead for the resumption of the talks in Geneva in December at senior officials level, as well as prepare for their discussions with the EU.

"ACP ministers were ad idem on their assessment of the Cancun process and its outcome," he said, noting that they shared the view that while the Singapore issues were a major stumbling block, the lack of consensus was deeper than that". He said they remained convinced that action on issues of concern to developing countries, in terms of agriculture, special and differential treatment, market access and the critical issue of transparency in the working methods of the WTO, were of vital importance to ACP members and the developing world as a whole".

He said they reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining a united front in pursuing the Doha development agenda, on which all WTO members must continue to work. "We recognised," he said "that the alliance of the ACP group, the African Union and the LDCs was a formidable force in the negotiations, and that this solidarity had to be maintained throughout the Doha work programme, as we sought to bring it back on track and move forward to the goals of development, which we see as the core elements of the Doha agenda and a sine qua non for all trade negotiations".

Against this background, Minister Knight said they agreed to instruct their Ambassadors in Geneva, to meet regularly to develop joint positions and strategies for the duration of the Doha negotiating process, and to continue to coordinate closely with the ACP office in Geneva.

In their dialogue with the EU partners, Minister Knight said there was some concern that while maintaining coherence between ACP positions in Cancún and their EPA negotiations, the latter should not be negatively affected by the former.

"We wished to ensure that the Cotonou spirit of partnership formed the basis for our interaction. Therefore, he said they were very heartened by the constructive and conciliatory approach of the EC delegation led by Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, accompanied by Development Cooperation Commissioner Poul Nielson.

Commissioner Lamy emphasised the EU's continuing support of the Doha multilateral process and affirmed the EU's commitment to treating trade as a tool for development at both the multilateral and bilateral levels. He also recognized the serious challenges arising from the lack of consensus in Cancun and referred to the Doha development round as being "under intensive care", adding that given the shock which "the patient" had suffered in Cancún, the EC would take some time to assess the situation and would be at the disposal of any group or state wishing to engage the EC in such assessment.