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After the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting: What Is at Stake?

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development | January 18, 2006

By Ken Heydon

The WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong in December 2005 made some progress in advancing the Doha Development Agenda. But much remains to be done, particularly in settling negotiating modalities in agriculture and NAMA and in putting some flesh onto the bones of the GATS. And where progress was made it was qualified, whether in dealing with the concerns of African cotton producers or in improving market access for the products of the least developed countries. Given the work still to do, it is not guaranteed that new deadlines will be met or that the DDA will be concluded on time. There is much at stake should the momentum of multilateral liberalisation stall; analysis at the OECD points to the risk of both major opportunities forgone and of systemic strains to the multilateral trading framework. Developing countries would be amongst the principal losers. Charting the way ahead will require that trade policy be seen in a broader domestic context which recognises that market opening works best when it is backed by sound macroeconomic policies, flexible labour markets, a culture of competition and strong institutions. Through this lens, trade reform can be promoted as a necessary tool of growth and development rather than as a concession paid to others.

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