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Dr. Abu-Ghazaleh Addresses WTO Forum, Participates in Panel of Experts Meetings

25-Sep-2012 | Source : AG-IP News | Visits : 9503
Dr. Abu-Ghazaleh Addresses WTO Forum, Participates in Panel of Experts Meetings
Special to ag-IP-news Agency

GENEVA - HE Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel to Identify 21st Century Trade Challenges, took part in a number of significant meetings and activities the Organization is holding for five days in Geneva. 

HE Abu-Ghazaleh took part in the second meeting of the WTO Panel to continue discussions of the challenges and future of the global trade and to find solutions. The Panel’s members submitted their suggestions and visions including setting strategies based on the global changes mainly in terms of the global economic crisis. 

Abu-Ghazaleh pointed out that his suggestions contained the Arab points of view expressing his pride and honor for the confidence of the heads of Arab delegations for representing them in his personal capacity, stating that HE Dr. Abdel Aziz bin Shafi Al Otaibi, representative of KSA to the WTO and Coordinator of the Arab Group arranged for a meeting that gathered ambassadors of the Arab countries to the WTO at the permanent headquarters of the League of Arab States to discuss and follow up in details topics related to Arabs’ points of view. He also took part in a joint meeting with government negotiators. 

Moreover, HE Abu-Ghazaleh addressed the open session of the WTO Public Forum which was chaired by WTO Director General Mr. Pascal Lamy with the attendance of over 1,500 participants from civil society, universities, businesses and governments. 

Lamy, in welcoming participants said: “While multilateralism is struggling in almost all spheres of global co-operation, I stand here before you with some optimism. We are after all gathered in the “house of trade”. An international house that rose out of the ashes of two World Wars and which took some 60 years to create.” 

He continued, “The WTO, in many ways, is one of the most successful examples of rules-based multilateralism at work. Its capacity to administer and enforce the global trade rules, including in the present crisis, is widely recognized as a major success in international co-operation. But our members’ difficulties to agree to update our rule book also demonstrate that the WTO is not immune to the geo-economic and geo-political transformations of our time. The WTO is both an organization and an institution. And I dare say that it is in a better shape as a member-driving institution than as a member-driven organization.” 

Lamy addressed the attendees: “You will also meet with the ’WTO Panel on Defining the Future of Trade’ that I have established to advise me on the profound transformations in the global economy, and the drivers of today and tomorrow’s trade.” 

In his keynote speech, Abu-Ghazaleh talked about two main issues from the WTO perspective: the WTO built-in problems and the possible action to walk out the crisis. 

Concerning the problems, Abu-Ghazaleh said that they are represented in the restraints and structural limitations represented in the fact that the WTO is a negotiation platform and that the decisions are made through consensus, in addition to the scarcity of resources as a result of the funding model. Other problems are the limitation of the WTO mandate in addition to the restricted capacities of the Organization in the pre-knowledge era or prior to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) revolution, not to mention as well the absence of the private sector (the traders) and the non-responsiveness to the major global geo-economic changes. 

Tackling the required possible action to encounter such problems, Abu-Ghazaleh briefed them into the following: To consider critical mass-type negotiations in cases of negotiations deadlock, the “Single Undertaking Principle” and allow for manageable agenda items, to complete the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) as priority (as a matter of principle) in parallel with new items, to consider negotiating an Internet Economy Agreement, to negotiate actively further liberalization of trade in services under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) aiming at a multilateral outcome instead of the contemplated plurilateral agreement. 

According to Abu-Ghazaleh, trade in Services should be given special priority in view of its potential growth globally noting that its share in world trade is the reverse of its share in GDP. 

Meanwhile, Abu-Ghazaleh suggested that the WTO needs to collaborate closely with the private sector for more responsiveness to market realities, and to lead a global inter-organizational coherence initiative, to request the TRIPS council to explore IPR Internet related issues to be addressed, to mandate studies on WTO role in relation to: Environment, Humanization of WTO, regionalization, food prices stability, south-south trade facilitation, economic development, WTO becoming a knowledge organization, e-commerce, technology transfer, labor, investment, climate and regionalization.

He also stated that the accession process to the WTO has become too difficult and complicated and that this issue concerns Arab countries of which ten are not members yet, in addition to numerous Islamic countries that are within the categories of developing and least developed.

Abu-Ghazaleh was elected at UNCTAD 13 to lead the establishment of the Arab Coalition of Service Industries (ASCI), inclusive of the 22 Arab countries.

At the closing of his speech Abu-Ghazaleh applauded the WTO for the open and inclusive session saying: “Pascal Lamy’s Panel of Experts is a commendable initiative to engage business and civil society and to provide decision makers with an opportunity to listen to views of stakeholders. WTO able leader and his committed and competent team can achieve much more if granted more executive authority as is the case in all other multilateral organizations.”
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