Groups prepare for December WTO talks

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Members of the WTO have made statements in preparation of the next WTO meeting in December.

Peter Mandelson, the EU's trade commissioner, has proposed a six-point package to help poor countries. The package includes guarantees of access to cheap drugs, special help for the 40 least-developed nations, compensation for poor countries affected by the loss of their access to Europe for bananas and sugar, relief for African cotton producers, and assistance to help countries build their capacity to trade. The EU is holding strong on its agriculture position while keeping internal dissent in check. Mandelson warned France not to veto any agreement saying that failure of the talks would be a "huge missed economic opportunity and a huge setback for multilateralism. Those who want to frustrate us, throw logs at us and impose vetoes on us - even from within our own ranks - will not find me giving up." Resistance is expected from the US, especially in the areas of textiles, and drugs. These two areas have been a areas of contention between the US and other WTO members.

Several South American WTO members complained about the current sluggishness of talks. Brazil's WTO ambassador, Clodoaldo Hugueney, said earlier this week, "We are seriously concerned about the current state of the negotiations. The burden of adjustment is being placed on developing countries."

The IMF also released a policy discussion paper titled "Africa in the Doha Round". In the paper, written by IMF Africa Department Senior Economist Yongzheng Yang, states that the representatives of Africa in the current round of WTO talks may be too fixated on the markets of wealthy nations. Yang writes, "African negotiators may have overlooked the potential market access gains in developing countries, where trade barriers remain relatively high and demand for African imports has expanded substantially." According to the paper Africa has primarily sought access of wealthiest nations including the US and the EU while limiting it's attention to China and other countries who imported 30 percent of Africa's exports. Recent trade issues Africa has pushed have included cotton exports, an area that has met much resistance to the wealthier WTO members. IMF policy discussion papers describe research in progress and are not opinions of the IMF.

The WTO has also agreed to extend an exemption for members classified as "least developed" from intellectual property rules until July 2013. These members already have an exemption, valid until 2016, for pharmaceutical products. The new extension applies to trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and geographical names indicating goods' place of origin. If a country improves out of the classification, the exemption will no longer apply.