Dr Harsha Vardhan Singh, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), has acknowledged that the multilateral trading system, under its aegis, has contributed significantly to poverty reduction in recent times.
He said the WTO, as a democratic rules-based system, has been successful in creating a stable and predictable system of doing trade.
Dr Singh said this at a public lecture on 93The Importance of the WTO: Present and Emerging, organized by CUTS-International, a Jaipur-based Civil Society Organisation, which is into trade, governance and regulatory issues in India and internationally.
He said WTO has distinguished itself during the recent financial crisis by restricting backtracking by its members, to harmful protectionist policies that would have restricted global aggregate demand and exacerbated the crisis.
Dr expressed optimism that a fruitful conclusion of the Doha Round of negotiation by the WTO membership of 153 countries, accounting for more than 97 percent of world trade, was near completion.
He said the next leg of the negotiation, to be carried out from September 2010 onwards, would offer immense opportunities for developing countries, which would gain from trade facilitation and environmental issues in particular.
“The chances of a fruitful conclusion had been strengthened by major players, especially the United States, showing renewed interest towards that end,” Dr Singh added.
Mr B. K. Zutshi, former Indiam Ambassador to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade GATT/WTO, attributed the current impasse in the negotiation to varying levels of ambitions about outcomes and said that a conclusion could be reached through a scaling down of such ambitions.
He highlighted the fairness of the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism as a characteristic, which had enhanced its credibility among nations.
“Such credibility could be brought into good use in facilitating agreement among the WTO members,” he said.
Mr Bipul Chatterjee, Deputy Executive Director, CUTS-International appealed for greater emphasis by the WTO on consumer welfare issues associated with trade.
He recommended the fine-tuning of Aid for Trade Initiatives to assist poor countries in coping appropriately with adjustment costs associated with trade liberalization.
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