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Cancun WTO meeting result disappointing

The result from the Cancun World Trade Organisation meeting today was not the end of the global trading system, nor of efforts to reform it, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said.

The meeting ended today without reaching agreement on a detailed negotiating text. Cancun conference chairman Luis Derbez said considerable progress had been made, but more work needed to be done in some key areas to enable members to proceed towards the conclusion of negotiations and fulfilment of the Doha commitments.

Mr Sutton said the talks did not break down over agriculture.

“We were making good progress. Although there was still some way to go, the agriculture part of the draft text looked as though it would have gone a long way towards the ambitious outcome that New Zealand farmers were hoping for.

“Unfortunately, other issues proved too much for the membership at this time.”

Those issues were the so-called “Singapore” issues: investment, competition, trade facilitation, and transparency in government procurement.

Despite the considerable flexibility the European Union and Japan had signaled on investment and competition, a number of developing countries said that they could not, at this time, accept negotiations on trade facilitation and government procurement, Mr Sutton said.

“That is their right. Developing nations are a majority of the WTO now, and their views have to be recognized. Their greater involvement in the WTO has made this organisation a truly global one.

“We now need to focus on preserving the good progress we have made since the launch of the round at Doha two years ago. We need to bridge the differences that remain. But most of all, we need to take stock and reflect on how we can best take this process forward, to deliver the real benefits for World Trade Organisation members – developing and developed alike.”

Mr Sutton said he was disappointed personally and for the New Zealand team at Cancun by the breakdown of the meeting. New Zealand had worked intensively with all participants at the WTO meeting, especially with the United States, European Union, Cairns Group, the “G21” led by Brazil, India, South Africa, and China, and other developing countries.

“A huge amount of work has been done by a lot of people, and we have made significant progress, which could still be really positive for New Zealand and the developing nations dependent on agriculture for their export earnings.

“The objective now must be to hang on to the progress made, while working to complete that which has not been completed at Cancun.”

Mr Sutton said conference chairman Luiz Derbez had put an outstanding effort into the WTO meeting, and his personal reputation as Mexico’s foreign minister was enhanced as a consequence.

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