Geneva - The World Trade Organisation wrapped up a ministerial
meeting Saturday deadlocked on the Doha Round of negotiations for a
global free trade pact, and some ministers calling for a new path.
Conference chairman and Nigerian Trade Minister
Olusegun Aganga summarised the ministers' regret at the impasse in a
The WTO's 153 member states agreed to "more fully
explore different negotiating approaches" and "intensify their efforts
to look into ways" to overcome the stalemate, said Aganga.
Launched a decade ago in the Qatari capital, the Doha
Round of negotiations has faltered as developing and developed countries
failed to bridge entrenched positions on cutting farm subsidies and
lowering industrial tariffs.
With the talks at a standstill, ministers had arrived
in Geneva knowing full well that their three-day meeting was not a
The main bright spot of the conference was Russia's
accession to the world trade body this week after a record 18 years of
Russia applied in 1993 but talks dragged on and its
brief war with Georgia in 2008 further delayed its application as
Tbilisi was able to veto Moscow's application by virtue of its WTO
Besides Russia, the WTO on Saturday welcomed two other
countries -- Samoa and Montenegro -- to its fold, although parliaments
in all three nations must still ratify the move.
Beyond the expanded membership, there was little
progress on the Doha Round, with some ministers blatantly saying that
negotiations would not bear fruit if they continued in the same vein -- a
point also made by the G20 summit in November.
"With this ministerial conference, it is clear that we
are turning a page in our decade-long pursuit of the Doha Development
Agenda," said Ron Kirk, US trade representative.
Gaps "exist not only in non-agricultural market access, but indeed across the broad scope of the Doha agenda," he added.
"The frank recognition that our current path is simply
not leading in a fruitful direction is the only logical place to start
if we are to find a better and more productive path for conducting
negotiations within this institution," Kirk told the ministerial
EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht admitted at a
press conference that WTO member states needed to "recognise that our
credibility has been seriously damaged by our failure to get Doha off
"We must make sure that 2012 does not become a 'lost
year'. I am ready to take the lead and I look to all my partners to join
me," he said.
Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said Beijing was
open to "exploring new pathways and issues" but that members must not
lose sight of the fact that the main aim of Doha was to lift countries
out of poverty through trade.
"This is like mountain climbing, the summit is the Doha
Round. But we've hit a roadblock on the way to the top, so we can
either do a detour or we can find a new path."
WTO director-general Pascal Lamy urged the membership
to revive negotiations, saying "the lack of convergence that exists
today would not solve itself with time."
"That's why I call on ministers to start working immediately now in a creative, constructive manner," he told the meeting.
Any future negotiations were likely to be "more pragmatic and in a way more subtle", Lamy told reporters later.
"People have been flexible, open more than in the past.
Let's see whether this goodwill reinforces or evaporates during the
Christmas break," he said.