CHRIST CHURCH, BARBADOS – At a recently concluded “mini-ministerial”, convened in Paris, Hon. Clement Rohee, CARICOM Ministerial Spokesperson for World Trade Organization (WTO) issues and Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation- Guyana, underscored that development has to be at the core of the WTO’s Doha Round. Minister Rohee also highlighted the significance to CARICOM of Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT). He stressed the importance of recognizing the vulnerabilities of Small Developing Economies. In addition, he expressed the region’s continued concern with the erosion of preferences. On May 13, Minister Rohee held separate consultations with Ministers from Hong Kong and Canada, respectively, and with the European Union Commissioner for Trade, Pascal Lamy. The “mini-ministerial” was intended to give impetus to Doha Round talks. At issue was advancing efforts to clinch framework agreements, encompassing key issues of the Doha Agenda, by July this year. The “mini-ministerial” meeting took place on the margins of the annual Ministerial Council of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), May 13 to 14. At a May 13 Trade Working Dinner, Minister Rohee was a Lead Discussant/Facilitator of one of four discussion groups. On May 14, all OECD Ministers as well as Ministers from invited non-Members and Observers participated in an exchange-of-views centered on how to advance the Doha Agenda. The determination of Ministers to achieve framework agreements by July this year is highlighted in the Trade Section of the ‘OECD Ministerial Council Meeting Chair’s Summary’. (The Summary is available on and can be downloaded from the RNM website (www.crnm.org)) The Director-General of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM), Ambassador Dr. Richard Bernal, who accompanied Minister Rohee to the “mini-ministerial”, signaled there was now renewed commitment to reach agreement on key issues by July. “There are signs that countries have re-evaluated their positions since Cancún, and are now prepared to show greater flexibility”, he said. Late last week, WTO Director-General, Supachai Panitchpakdi, characterized Doha Round talks as poised for “historic breakthrough”. He had previously cautioned the ‘window of opportunity was closing’. Panitchpakdi has indicated, however, that the anticipated July framework agreements need not be as detailed as those which WTO Members attempted, unsuccessfully, to craft at the collapsed Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference, last September. In remarks to a General Council meeting, May 17, the WTO chief said, “if the signs of flexibility and convergence that have emerged from the recent political-level discussions can be continued and translated into substantive progress in our Geneva process, I believe we have a very good chance of achieving our objectives in July”. A key decision was taken on the occasion of the “mini-ministerial” on advancing talks in the area of agricultural market access. At the close of the meeting, it was revealed that the G20 and the Cairns Group will collectively work to draft a proposal on agricultural market access, with a view to presenting it at an early June meeting of the WTO’s negotiating group on Agriculture. Agricultural trade reform has been a major stumbling block for multilateral trade liberalization negotiations. Progress in this area is critical to breaking the logjam in the Doha Round.
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