- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

Special correspondent John Zarocostas recently interviewed Garrity Baker, managing director for international affairs at the American Chemistry Council, on the outlook for the chemical sector at the global trade talks in Doha, Qatar. World chemical production is estimated at about $1.9 trillion and is a major employer, providing more than 1 million jobs in the United States and nearly 2 million in Europe. This interview was conducted in Nice, France, on the sidelines of a chemical-industry conference.

Question: Mr. Baker, what are your views on the initiative by U.S., European, Japanese and other developed-country chemical firms to lower and ultimately scrap chemical tariffs? Will it fly at the Doha global trade talks?

Answer: Right now, the proposal has been introduced to the World Trade Organization (WTO), so that’s a first step and a good sign. And of course, our objective is to keep building support for this proposal so it’s an outcome of the December 2005 ministerial [talks in Hong Kong] and can be part of the Doha round agreement.

[Editor’s note: The target is to complete the talks by December 2006].

Q: The objective is to get key emerging countries that you’re interested in to join this effort. In your view, which countries must join the initiative?

A: In the last round of trade talks [1986 to ‘93 in Uruguay], our proposal was to bring tariffs down to the 5 [percent] or 6 percent range, and there’s a lot of trade that’s in that area right now. So that was pretty successful. Now we want to try and go to zero.

[The proposal calls for rich countries to scrap chemical tariffs in five years and for major developing countries to do so in 15 years for tariffs higher than 25 percent and in 10 years for countries whose chemical tariffs are 25 percent or less.]

We do, of course, hope we can include in this agreement China, India and the countries that have growing chemical industries.

Q; What about others?

A: Our hope is we will get a very good initial membership in this proposal, and other countries, as they accede to the WTO, would join this agreement. And some countries might be pretty low today, but become larger chemical producers in the future, and we would want them to become part of this agreement when their chemicals industry grows.

Q: What if these countries reject the initiative as they did in the last round? What happens then?

A: What we’re hoping for is, with the very long staging that we’re providing, if your tariffs are currently above 25 percent, our proposal gives you 15 years to get them down. That would be an attraction for some countries to go ahead and join in.

Q: You mentioned China and India. Are there other key emerging countries like Brazil that you would like to join?

A: What we’re going to do this year is to get the proposal to be part of the WTO. The outcome from December — and if it is successful there — we start to work on the countries that are part of this and the products that are part of this.

Our proposal is that it includes all chemicals. So we don’t know the answer to that question yet. But we hope it will be broad enough to be quite attractive.

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