Top trade official presses for completion of Doha round

A top world trade official said it is time to take a more aggressive tack in completing an overhaul of international trade rules.

Roberto Azevêdo, director-general World Trade Organization (WTO), said Monday that he will push more heartily toward completion of the long-delayed Doha Development Agenda.

"There is still a lot of work to be done, and we have to strain to the maximum to push the trade agenda forward,” he said at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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He argued that the agreement made with WTO nations at the end of 2013 in Bali has created an abundance of new momentum and a greater sense of urgency.

"We need to harvest the benefits of Bali” and “prepare once and for all for the Doha agenda."

Azevêdo met with President Obama on Monday to discuss global trade and economic issues and he said that the president emphasized that it is important to avoid “repeating the bad habit of not going anywhere."

To that end, he argued that wrapping up work on Doha will require creating a new framework for negotiations by the end of this year with the aim of concluding discussions “as quickly as possible."

“We can’t just dust off the Doha briefs and go back to our intractable positions,” Azevêdo said.

Some issues haven’t been discussed in nearly six years, he said. 

“We need to have a discussion about other emerging issues shaping the global trade agenda."

He said that means there must be a greater focus on planning the agenda and the order in which to tackle the most challenging issues.

That means dealing with agriculture, and industrial goods and services first, which should help the other issues fall into place much more easily.

But if that doesn't happen, “any progress will still be limited," he said. 

In the past, WTO members made a “crucial mistake” of negotiating along the way instead of organizing the agenda to pave the way for more progress, he argued. 

“We need a more ambitious path to go further with more flexible engagement among the members so the well-known obstacles of the past don't paralyze us,” he said.

“We need to think very hard about where want to end up then define the easiest and straightest path there."

But he said the changes in attacking the agenda should not be perceived as lower the ambition or going for low-handing fruit.

“I want to be absolutely clear that’s not what we’re talking about here,” he said.

In conjunction with Azevêdo's, the Chamber on Monday released a white paper on outline its policy priorities before the organization, including implementation of the new Trade Facilitation Agreement, concluding the Information Technology Agreement expansion negotiations and pushing forward on the recently launched talks on trade in environmental goods.

The Chamber also called for a conclusion on the Doha agenda writing that "there is great promise in the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) negotiations now underway in Geneva."

"With a great deal of important work ahead on trade facilitation, negotiations on IT and environmental goods, and trade in services, Geneva’s trade community faces a bright and busy future."