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Davos: World must learn trade talk lessons, says WTO's Pascal Lamy

Guardian Economics 28th January 2010

World Trade Organisation chief says long-running global trade talks show what is needed to prevent negotiations on climate change and financial regulation dragging out for many years

World leaders need to learn lessons from the long-running global trade talks if they are to prevent negotiations on climate change and financial regulation dragging out for many years, the man responsible for policing trade said today.

Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organisation, said the lack of a successful deal to reduce protectionism after more than eight years showed how difficult it was to reach a global agreement.

"There are lessons to be drawn for how to get there from the experience of the WTO, which remains ahead of the curve," Lamy said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He added that an international agreement required four elements – political will, a target, a procedure to negotiate a deal, and an enforcement system.

Lamy insisted that the WTO had all four elements in place and it was now a question of "catalysing the political will" to complete the round during 2010. It would be clear by March whether the G20 group of developed and developing nations were committed to settling their remaining disagreements over agriculture, services and financial help for poor countries within the next 12 months.

"The fact that we haven't finished the round shows how difficult it is".

All global negotiations, Lamy said, were handicapped by the need for agreements to be ratified by nation states. "We don't have a global voter".

The WTO chief, who will hold informal talks with trade ministers from about 30 countries on the fringes of the World Economic Forum, said that neither the climate change talks nor the G20 discussions on a new global financial structure were as far advanced.

Lamy said that trade rounds normally took a long time to conclude and that the Doha round, which was launched in November 2001, was more complex and involved more countries than any previous set of talks.

But he expressed confidence that the WTO's 150-plus members would eventually "crack the remaining nuts".

Lamy added: "No round has died yet."

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