23 April 2007 – The current round of international trade talks must succeed, or the world’s poorest countries will slip further behind and the entire multilateral trading system will be in jeopardy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today in Qatar as he urged Member States to re-double their efforts to reach agreement.
In a speech to the Seventh Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade, held in the capital, Doha, Mr. Ban said globalization had made travel, shipping and communications much easier and made the benefits of trade “more evident than ever.”
For this reason, he said there must be a successful conclusion to the Doha Round of trade talks. “The global trading regime needs to create opportunities for the poorest countries, instead of leaving them at a disadvantage.”
Named after the city where they were launched in 2001, the Doha Round of trade talks stalled last year amid disputes between developed and developing countries over agricultural subsidies, but talks have resumed recently.
Mr. Ban warned that if the latest talks fail, “serious damage will be done to those who can least afford it, to the multilateral trading system, and to multilateralism itself. Should this round of trade talks succeed, Doha will become synonymous not only with free trade, but also indelibly linked to development.”
The Secretary-General told the Forum that while democracy was intrinsically valuable on its own terms, it also brought positive effects to trade and development, offering institutional certainty and stability and encouraging businesses to have greater confidence in a country’s economic outlook.
“Democracy, development and free trade share a conception of men and women as free and autonomous individuals, capable of fulfilling their inner potential,” he said, stressing the closeness of the relationship between the three topics.
He urged the world’s countries to work towards “truly free trade,” transparent governance and institutions based on the will of the people, and sustainable development and globalization that benefits everyone, and not just some of the world’s peoples.
Earlier, Mr. Ban told reporters travelling with him on his four-nation official trip that he was frustrated by the pace of progress so far on the resumed Doha Round.
While in Qatar, the UN chief has also met with the country’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and its Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad ibn Jassem bin Jabr Al-Thani, as well as Finland’s President Tarja Halonen, who opened the Forum.
His last stop on the trip, which began in Italy, will be Damascus, Syria, where meetings with senior Government officials, including President Bashar Assad, are expected.
On Saturday in Geneva, Mr. Ban concluded the latest two-day meeting of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), which brings together top officials from across the UN system.
The CEB agreed to restructure arrangements for cooperation among UN entities to ensure a more transparent, cost-effective and coherent approach to developing common programmes, as well as to support the “aid-for-trade” initiative, which is designed to help poorer nations to take a greater role in the international trading system.