After five days of intense wrangling, the 147 member states of the WTO also agreed on Saturday to create more open industrial markets and put troubled global commerce negotiations back on track.
“Better late than never,” WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said after the agreement was struck at a late-night session of top-level trade diplomats at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva.
“This is a historic moment for this organisation,” WTO chief Supachai Panitchpakdi said.
The deal on a series of contentious trade issues, ranging from farm reform to the launch of negotiations on a new customs code, puts the stalled Doha Round firmly back on track.
“This is the beginning of the end for farm subsidies. Export subsidies will be eliminated first,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said.
The Doha Round of trade talks had been in peril since the acrimonious collapse of a ministerial conference last September in Cancun, Mexico.
“This is a historic moment for this organisation”
European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said the Doha Round of trade talks could be concluded by the end of 2005.
“Should end-2005 be feasible for concluding the round? I don’t know. But with the kind of acceleration we have seen the last month, it could be doable,” Lamy said.
After an all-night negotiating marathon, key WTO members, including the US, the EU, Brazil and Japan, had on Saturday agreed to the elimination of export subsidies at a date yet to be set, and to limit other subsidies as well as lower tariff barriers.
Agreement on the sensitive issue of agriculture opened the way for a similar understanding on industrial goods trade and development issues – areas in which the WTO was seeking a framework accord to serve as a basis for future, more detailed negotiations as part of the Doha Round.
Failure in Geneva would have risked delaying further trade liberalisation for years.