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WTO chief outlines anti-trade trends
Publication Date : 31-05-2012
Three worldwide trends are working against trade - the slowdown in the global economy, constraints of trade finance and rise of protectionism, Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organisation, said yesterday.
Since Europe's economy has weakened, and the region re-presents about 15 per cent of the global economy, it has affected other countries too, Lamy told the seminar, "High-level dialogue on |the future of the global trading system", hosted by the Commerce Ministry.
Export-led-growth countries such as China and Thailand have felt the impact, he said.
Constraints of trade finance caused by the deleveraging of banks had adversely affected small countries, especially in Africa, he said.
The rise in trade protectionism measures has hit world trade by about 1-2 per cent, he said.
While tariff rates are going down, non-tariff barriers are going up. They include anti-dumping surcharges, local content requirements and government procurement rules that give an advantage to local firms.
The dispute over the development agenda between the US and China has got the Doha Round negotiation stuck for a decade, he said.
"The US says China is a rich country with many poor people but China says it is a poor country, but with many rich people," he said.
Pongsak Assakul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the most scary issue is trade protectionism. The WTO should enforce rules effectively, he said.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said Thailand is going to join 40 countries in negotiating government procurement rules under the WTO.
Kittiratt said the rise in logistics costs is also a barrier to trade.
Thailand is trying to build rail and road connectivity with Myanmar to cut costs and save time for exports to India and Europe.
Kittiratt said he was optimistic about the conclusion of the Doha Round of trade talks.
After WTO members enjoy free trade under bilateral and regional arrangements for a while, they may be convinced of the benefits of a multilateral trade system.
Lamy said the trade talks would be concluded, but not this year.
Members are still trying to agree on those parts of the package that they can accept.