Doha round in a ‘moment of truth’
By The Toronto Star
July 22, 2008, Ottawa, Ont. - The long-standing World Trade Organization discussion reopens in Geneva this week, in the hopes of settling, among other issues, the debate on agricultural subsidies. The trick will be to convince US and European Union interests of the unfairness of their respective programs while protecting Canadian supply managed sectors.
July 22, 2008, Ottawa, Ont. – Canada's new international trade minister, Michael Fortier, has his sights set on an "ambitious" result coming out of this week's World Trade Organization talks in Geneva.
The ministerial talks, billed by Canada as critical in the bid to make progress in the so-called Doha round of the WTO, are focused on agricultural subsidies – a potentially touchy political issue for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.
Canada is entering these talks committed to seeing others' agricultural subsidies eliminated or reduced, yet appears to be confident that it can protect its own supply-managed sectors, such as the dairy and poultry industries.
"Canada is strongly committed to the multilateral process and continues to press for an ambitious outcome to the Doha Round," Christopher Hilton, a spokesperson for Fortier, said from Geneva yesterday.
"Canadian agricultural producers, manufacturers and services will benefit from the expanded access to global markets that an ambitious outcome from the Doha round will secure."
The Canadian government has long maintained that its supply-managed sectors can be spared in any worldwide subsidy cuts if they are declared as "sensitive" industries and thus exempt from reforms.
This remains Canada's position going into the talks.
The Doha round, named after the Qatar city where the WTO nations began the talks in 2001, has long since stretched past the original deadline and several extensions of the set date for a comprehensive deal to be struck.
The original goal was to liberalize trade, to make importing and exporting cheaper and to help developing countries. Talks are being held against the backdrop of rapidly rising food prices.
WTO director general Pascal Lamy earlier this month described this week's session as a "moment of truth" for the Doha negotiations.
"The coming weeks represent the moment of truth for the Doha round," he said in a memorandum to ministers, published in the International Herald Tribune.