Director-General's letter to journalists

21 July 2008


Dear Friend,

In the coming days the WTO will host key trade negotiations which may well determine the fate of the Doha round. Ministers and senior officials from the 153 WTO Members will be working collectively to establish modalities in the agriculture and industrial goods and advance the negotiations on services. This will also be an occasion to look across the entire Doha Agenda to assess progress made in each other remaining topics (including trade and environment, development specific issues, trade facilitation, anti-dumping, fishery subsidies or those related to intellectual property rights) and to provide a roadmap for these talks in the autumn. In short, although this is not — yet — the end of the Doha Round, it is a leap forward towards its conclusion.

Modalities on agriculture and industrial goods trade would provide a powerful injection of momentum to the Doha negotiations, clearing the way for a final deal in the near future. The stakes are very high. The global economy is facing tumultuous times. Sharply rising prices for food and energy, sharply decelerating economic growth and instability in international markets have raised concern in all corners of the world. Many politicians have proposed protectionist solutions as a means of addressing these concerns. These are global problems which demand global solutions. The members of the WTO have an important contribution to make. Striking a deal here in the coming days, would send a signal to the world that working together we can address these problems. We need global trade rules which are more equitable, development-friendly, transparent and pertinent to the realities of trade in the 21 st century. A stronger trading system would instil greater confidence in the global economy and would be a potent insurance policy against the retreat into protectionism that we all know leads only to conflict and geopolitical instability.

In recent weeks and months, the chances of reaching a deal have increased significantly. This didn't happen by accident. Chairs of the key negotiating groups have worked assiduously with WTO delegations here in Geneva over the last year to narrow differences on highly technical elements of the agriculture and industrial goods talks. They have reduced the number of outstanding differences to a manageable number and have produced negotiating documents which offer politicians clear choices on the most politically sensitive of issues. Now is the time to take these difficult decisions.

I hope your stay in Geneva is a pleasant one.