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Exports to fall in 2009, warns WTO director general

March 06 - The WTO did not succeed in reaching a final agreement on modalities for agriculture and industry - two key pillars of the Doha Round - at the end of last year, WTO director general Pascal Lamy told a press conference in Canberra.

Such an agreement would have paved the way for the complex process of turning guidelines into legally binding obligations - or "scheduling as we call it in our jargon," he told reporters.

"Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a financial crisis and a global economic recession of unknown proportions. Some are already beginning to regret the opportunity they lost last year to conclude the Doha deal. Global output and trade plummeted in the final months of 2008, and global growth in 2009 is expected to fall further.
"Of particular note is the World Bank's forecast of a drop in global export volumes of two percent in 2009, the first decline since 1982. Developing countries - who are most in need of economic growth - will be particularly badly hit, with their export opportunities fading because of the recession in high-income countries, the shortage in export credits, and the rising cost of export insurance. This, coupled with reduced foreign direct investment, reduced remittances from migrant workers abroad, and further falls in commodity prices, is likely to be a serious strain on many of their economies," he says.

This means that the WTO, rather than creating new trading opportunities now finds itself struggling to preserve the status-quo, he said.

"There's also the engagement at the political level," he added. "That's been stalled in part because of this transition period in the United States. But what was significant last year at the same time these concerns were being raised, was that the combined leadership of the G20 committed very strongly to the importance of concluding the Round. It's that momentum that we've got to build into the London summit. It's that momentum obviously that we've got to engage the new US President in as well."

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