- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

Divisions between developed and developing countries have caused the World Trade Organization to miss internal negotiation deadlines and are threatening the timetable for an ambitious round of talks on rules that govern international trade and investment.
WTO delegates will meet next week in Geneva and try to patch up differences.
The international trade body was supposed to finish this year's work by yesterday but could not reach a consensus on two key issues that are part of the Doha Development Agenda.
"Meeting all of these deadlines is essential if we are to conclude the Doha Development Agenda on time. New deadlines face us at each stage of the Doha process and we cannot afford to postpone decisions on key issues," WTO Director General Supachai Panitchpakdi said in a statement.
The WTO wants to make substantial progress in negotiations before a top-level meeting scheduled for September in Cancun, Mexico.
The Cancun session is an important time to assess progress on the way to the ultimate deadline to complete the trade negotiations by Jan. 1, 2005.
"Failure to meet deadlines this year and next carries the risk of overloading our agenda at the ministerial conference in Cancun next year," Mr. Supachai said.
To move talks forward, the 144 WTO members pared back their agenda to 22 from 85 issues.
A WTO source in Geneva said that a best-case scenario would involve agreement on the 22 issues and a decision to deal with the other issues later.
Negotiators are especially hung up on two topics that were placed on the trade agenda when the WTO met in November 2001 in Doha, Qatar's capital.
The first weighs access to generic drugs for developing nations against patent protection for pharmaceutical companies.
At Doha, delegates agreed that poor countries should be allowed to waive some patent protections and gain access to generic drugs that combat diseases of epidemic proportion, such as AIDS and malaria.
Developing countries want to push the waiver to include as broad a category of drugs and diseases as possible while countries with advanced pharmaceutical industries, such as the United States and Switzerland, want clear limits.
The WTO council for pharmaceuticals is scheduled to discuss the drug issue Monday with the hope of presenting a common position before the full General Council reconvenes later in the week.
The second issue covers "special and differential treatment" for developing countries.
The measures would improve provisions of current agreements for poorer WTO members, but developing countries say current provisions have not worked and that they expect further concessions, according to a WTO source in Geneva.
"The issues of access to essential medicines for poor nations and the extension of special and differential treatment for developing countries remain unresolved. These two outstanding issues are of huge importance," said Sergio Marchi, General Council chairman.
"However, I believe the political will exists on all sides to find a balanced agreement. With a bit more hard work and a little more flexibility I believe governments can get the job done," Mr. Marchi said.
The Doha Development Agenda includes a wide range of trade negotiations including agriculture, services, market access for industrial products, trade and environment, intellectual property, and general WTO rules.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide