SA wants development to stay on WTO agenda

2011-11-28 15:47

Johannesburg - South Africa wants the developmental mandate to remain on the table at the upcoming World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference (MC8) in Switzerland, Trade Minister Rob Davies said on Monday.

“We will be going in there with a clear message that the developmental mandate remains central and we need to deliver on it,” Davies told media in Boksburg.

The minister was speaking during a consultative conference between the government, labour and business to decide on South Africa’s response to MC8 to be held in Geneva from December 15 to 17.

The developmental agenda was agreed during talks in Doha in 2001. It relates to issues important to developing countries like reforming trade rules for agriculture and duty free, quota free access for the least-developed countries in the global trading regime.

However, Davies said developed countries were trying to move away from developmental issues and place issues important to them, such as climate change, on the table.

“We are very disturbed that the US and others have now put forward a whole set of new proposals to move away from development mandate... and instead want new issues - climate change, energy, investment... which threaten to shift attention to these issues which have a greater appeal to developed countries than developing countries,” he said.

“Our view as South Africa is we still believe the development issues are fundamental... any progress has to address them, and we are not going to be hijacked in a different direction.”

Ambassador Faizel Ismail, South Africa’s trade envoy to the WTO, said the US and Europe had raised new demands to those agreed in Doha.

“They are completely abandoning the Doha mandate which recognised differences between developing and developed countries,” he said.

Davies said even if countries could not deliver on the Doha mandate now, they needed to agree to pick up on it later.

The Doha Round of trade negotiations among members of the WTO were launched at the WTO’s Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001.

The negotiations aim to reform the international trading system through the introduction of lower trade barriers and revised trade rules.