Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Micheál Martin): The seventh WTO Ministerial Conference took place in Geneva from 30 November to 2 December. The Irish Delegation was led by the Minister for Trade and Commerce, Billy Kelleher T.D. The Conference was an important opportunity for WTO Trade Ministers to assess the progress made on concluding a new trade liberalisation deal by the end of 2010. Negotiations on a new trade deal — referred to as the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) — have been ongoing since 2002. The meeting also enabled Ministers to provide political perspectives on the broader WTO policy agenda, including its contribution to recovery, growth and development and to combating climate change.
At the Ministerial meeting, there was broad consensus on the important role that trade and the Doha Round can play in aiding the global economic recovery and in addressing poverty alleviation in developing countries. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the centrality of the development dimension to the Round. They also pledged to continue to support the Aid for Trade initiative, which seeks to help the poorest developing countries to strengthen their capacity to expand trade and foster economic growth. There were widespread calls to conclude the Doha Round by the end of 2010. Ministers also underlined the importance of maintaining agreement on what has already been negotiated, a reference to attempts by a small number of countries to re-open elements of the deal that have already been agreed. A stock-taking exercise is planned for the first quarter of 2010 in order to assess the extent to which the conditions for concluding the DDA are in place.
In reference to the 29 countries who have applied for WTO membership, Ministers highlighted the importance of accessions in broadening and strengthening the WTO and agreed that there should be a sharing of experiences with accession countries, especially by those members that have recently joined the organisation. Some concern was expressed at the growing number of bilateral and regional trade agreements outside of the framework of the multilateral trading system but there was broad agreement on the need to ensure that the two approaches should continue to complement each other.
WTO rule making and multilateral trade liberalisation has had a profound impact on Ireland’s economic development. Against that background, Ireland wishes to see an ambitious, fair and balanced outcome to the current negotiations; one which would respect Ireland’s national interests and reflect adequately the aim of the Doha Development Agenda to give greater prominence to development issues, especially the needs of the poorest developing countries.
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