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The Doha development agenda: speech at the International Development Law Organisation Trade Law Conference: Sydney:



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Speech

to the International Development Law Organisation Trade Law Conference

Sydney, 8 November 2002

The Doha Development Agenda

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this International Development Law Organisation Trade Law Course on the important topic of trade and development.

I congratulate IDLO on its important work.

I believe it is vital that governments of developing countries are assisted and encouraged to develop the skills they need, so that they can promote their interests in an increasingly complex international trade environment.

For our part, the Australian Government is happy to help by funding the participation in this course by delegates from some of our most important regional partners - Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

I trust that you have found the course valuable and gained a better understanding of the multilateral trading system.

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Almost a year ago WTO trade ministers gathered in Doha, in Qatar, to consider a mandate for a new round of multilateral trade negotiations.

The meeting heralded a new chapter in the global trade agenda.

First, it was the first meeting since the failed attempt to launch a new round in Seattle in November 1999: it was important that we did not fail a second time.

Second, there was a new recognition at Doha that the concerns of developing countries have not been heard sufficiently in the past.

At the beginning of the Uruguay Round there were 86 contracting parties to the GATT, the predecessor to the WTO.

Now there are 144 WTO members, with the majority of the additional 58 members being developing economies including, of course, China.

The reality facing the WTO now is that rich countries can no longer make demands of developing countries without taking into account their concerns - and their bargaining power.

In addition, it is clear that through their use of the dispute settlement system, developing countries recognise the WTO rules give them the power to enforce the commitment made by their trading partners.

So the mandate for a new round of negotiations agreed at Doha reflects the priorities of developing countries, as much as it does developed economies.

Those priorities include:

Capacity-building -- help from developed countries -- so that developing countries can participate in the multilateral trading system;

Special and differential treatment -- through measures such as tariff preferences and extra time to meet agreed commitments -- that acknowledges the status and needs of developing countries;

Developed countries implementing their WTO commitments, especially in opening up their markets to products from developing countries, such as textiles and footwear, and;

Reform of market access and trade-distorting measures -- such as export subsidies -- in developed countries, especially in agriculture.

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Australia has taken a lead in helping developing countries participate in the Doha Round.

Your participation in this course demonstrates that Australia is helping developing countries to improve their trade policy capacity.

Last month I announced a $3 million Regional WTO Capacity Building Project.

The project will begin next year and, depending on individual countries' requirements, will focus on training for developing countries in the Asia-Pacific in three key areas, namely:

Trade policy development;

WTO agreements and market access negotiations, and;

The implications of trade and investment liberalisation.

The project comes on top of a series of trade-related programs in the Asia-Pacific region worth some $16.5 million dollars this financial year.

We have provided $500,000 to the Agency for International Trade Information and Cooperation, to help developing country members of the WTO who do not have a mission in Geneva.

We have provided a training program for African trade negotiators, together with the South African Government, to help African countries maximise their engagement in the negotiations.

And we have pledged $A460,000 to a global trust fund supporting the Doha development agenda.

Helping ensure that developing country WTO members are able to participate in the multilateral trading system is not just a gesture.

It also is in Australia's interests, for two basic reasons.

First, because the more countries that trade, the more wealth there is to go around, and the more evenly it will be distributed.

Second, because Australia shares strategic interests in the global trade negotiations with many countries that have yet to fulfil their potential in participating in the system.

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Developed and developing countries alike stand to gain a great deal from further trade liberalisation under WTO rules and disciplines.

Most people now accept that aid to developing countries should be aimed at building a basis for market-driven economic growth.

Today, developing countries recognise that trade and investment, and not just aid, drives development.

Indeed, aid alone only perpetuates dependence on others for economic, social and, ultimately, political stability and growth.

More open trade and investment provides developing countries with access to a broader range of goods, services and technologies.

Openness accelerates the flow of private capital and foreign exchange reserves.

And it multiplies employment, providing the basis for local work forces to develop an entrepreneurial skill base.

A recent study by the UK-based NGO Oxfam concluded that increasing the share of world trade by developing countries by just five percent would generate an extra $A640 billion in revenue.

This is seven times the amount developing countries receive in official aid from developed countries.

Indeed, the record shows that open economies are the fastest and most sustainable means of achieving improved living standards.

Those economies that have most actively engaged in the world economy have lifted their people out of poverty and improved their well being - on almost any key social measure.

In East Asia, for example, absolute poverty has halved over the last 20 years - a persuasive, and still enduring, case for the benefits of globalisation.

Of course, successful globalisers have not just lowered trade barriers and become more integrated with the world economy.

They typically are undertaking many other reforms at the same time: strengthening the rule of law; building modern economic institutions; reducing corruption; providing public health and education, and investing in infrastructure.

The Doha round presents a major opportunity for developing countries grappling with the challenges of globalisation.

The round offers a prospect for developing countries to secure better trading conditions, and fairer trade rules, that will help underpin development.

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Market access is an important part of the Doha development agenda.

Without it, real, sustainable economic growth will be that much harder.

This is especially the case on agriculture, on which Australia shares much in common with developing countries.

Agricultural markets are the most corrupted of all international markets, and agricultural products are still treated differently, under international trade rules, to industrial products.

Tariffs on agricultural products, on average, are 3 times higher than on any other product you might find in the supermarket or department store:  incredibly, some agricultural tariffs are as much as 800 percent

The World Bank has estimated that rich countries subsidised and protected their farmers to the tune of US$350 billion in 2001.

That is nearly US$1 billion every day ... ● … or 7 times the value of official development assistance (aid) from OECD countries to developing countries ... ●

… or twice the value of all agricultural exports from all developing countries. ●

Australia has staked out a leadership role in the fight for agricultural trade policy reform, especially as Chair of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters, which is a cross section of developed and developing countries. 

The Cairns Group is a great example of a very effective lobby, with influence and negotiating power beyond the sum of its constituent parts, many of whom are developing countries.

In developing countries - more than 100 out of the 145 WTO members - agriculture is integral to the domestic economy and a leading source of their international competitiveness.

It is not longer tenable that rich countries insist developing countries open their markets to industrial products, services and intellectual property, while shutting them out where they can compete - especially in agriculture.

At Doha we achieved a strong commitment by WTO members to reform agriculture.

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Australia's commitment to market access - and not just on agriculture - is reflected in what we have been doing ourselves - for over 20 years.

Today, we continue to put our money where our mouth is.

Last month, at the APEC Leaders CEO Summit in Los Cabos, the Prime Minister announced that Australia will grant tariff and quota free access for 50 of the world's poorest countries, from 1 July 2003.

There are no exclusions or special deals for so-called “sensitive” sectors under the initiative.

Least Developed Countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, will benefit.

East Timor, although not yet officially designated a Least Developed Country, will also receive tariff-free access.

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An area of the Doha agenda where Australia wants to see issues resolved for - and by -developing and developed countries alike is the so-called “implementation” agenda.

The Doha ministerial clarified Uruguay Round obligations in a number of areas - and established a mandate for negotiations in other areas.

This included, of course, the agriculture mandate to improve market access, reduce domestic support and, eventually, phase out all export subsidies.

It included the difficult and controversial issue of public access to medicines in developing countries, on which the intellectual property rights are often held in developed countries.

This has been a hot-button issue for many developing countries, particularly in the light of the need to treat victims of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and the Asia Pacific, amongst other places.

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The Doha mandate is broad and ambitious.  It set out tight timelines for the negotiations, with the Round to be completed by 1 January, 2005.

Some of those deadlines include decisions to be taken by the end of 2002, such as on implementation of aspects of the TRIPS agreement affecting rights to HIV/AIDS treatments.

In addition, we have less than a year before the next WTO ministerial meeting, to be held in Cancun, Mexico, next September, just past half way through the Round. 

Ministers will need to take important decisions at Cancun if the round is to make progress towards its goal of concluding an agreement by January 2005.

That is why I have decided to convene a meeting focusing on the Doha development agenda in Sydney next week.

After consulting, amongst others, Mexican Trade Minister Luis Derbez, host of the Cancun Ministerial, I have invited ministers from 25 countries representing a cross-section of regions, levels of development and interests.

Collectively, these countries account for 80 percent of world trade.

The informal meeting of trade ministers this week is crucial to moving the Doha Round forward.

This is not an official meeting of the WTO.  Nor is it being held under WTO auspices.

Instead, it is an important opportunity to share perspectives, build understanding and develop ideas informally, and without the constraints of a large, official undertaking.

In particular, I see the meeting as a real opportunity to work towards ensuring the Round ca n deliver results for both traditional market access - particularly for agriculture but also for industrial products and services - and for development issues.

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Australia's longstanding commitment to an open and transparent multilateral trading system - in which all WTO members can participate and benefit from - remains the bedrock of Australia's trade policy.

We share an interest with other countries in ensuring that international trade is governed by fair and effective rules, and that those rules give us a fair chance to benefit from global trade.

I am confident that, developed and developing countries alike, we can chart a path to the successful conclusion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations at the WTO.

Thank you.

This page last modified: Monday, 11-Nov-2002 11:32:40 EDT

Local Date: Monday, 11-Nov-2002 13:25:33 EDT