Thursday, August 1, 2013

SAARC should unitedly raise voice during 9th WTO ministerial: Regional think tanks

The regional think tanks have suggested South Asian governments to seek effective market access on items of export interest to developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs); market access in services, especially for Mode 4; financial and technical assistance from developed country members for infrastructure upgradation in developing countries and LDCs during the WTO’s ninth Ministerial Conference scheduled to be held in Bali on December 3-6.
Amid growing scepticism regarding the future of the multilateral trading system and the conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda, a Kathmandu-based South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) and Colombo-based Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) jointly organised a two-day regional consultation on ‘Road to Bali: South Asian Priorities for the Ninth WTO Ministerial’ in Marawila, Sri Lanka on July 2-3 and prepared a gamut of recommendations for the South Asian government to take maximum advantages from the multilateral agreement.
The consultation also adopted a resolution that is to be submitted to all SAARC countries that are WTO members, and to the SAARC Secretariat, so that they have a common voice on some of the WTO issues to take to the nineth WTO Ministerial in Bali.
SAWTEE submitted the resolution – today to commerce and supplies minister Shankar Koirala at his office in Kathmandu – that is expected to help negotiate policy outcomes that will be beneficial for all South Asian economies. It is important for SAARC ministers to present a united front and push for the resolution of major issues concerning the region in the Ministerial Conference in Bali, suggested SAWTEE that has also reiterated the need for effective utilisation of flexibilities available to developing countries under the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) – especially in the context of public health – and putting in place effective monitoring mechanism for technology transfer.
The resolution also focused on the provision of additional Aid for Trade (AfT) funding for regional projects in South Asia, and preferential AfT for LDCs, along with putting in place a robust AfT monitoring and evaluation mechanism with full participation of recipient countries; and enforcement of the duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access to LDCs on all products of their export interest, in line with Annex F of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of 2005.
Presenting the resolution to the minister executive chairman of SAWTEE Dr Posh Raj Pandey urged him to take the lead and discuss the issues –suggested by the regional think tanks – of common interest to South Asia when they meet in Colombo, and prepare their negotiating positions for the ninth WTO Ministerial.
“Considering the fact that Nepal is currently the chair of the LDCs group in the WTO, we should also utilise the SAARC platform to support to causes espoused by the Group to benefit from the multilateral trading system,” he added.

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