Brics will not compromise on Doha round - Davies

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sanya, China - South Africa's Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies has made it clear that the five Brics countries will not compromise in their efforts to create fairer global trade conditions for developing nations at the Doha round. 

Speaking in Sanya ahead of tomorrow's Brics Summit, Davies said South Africa remained committed to seeing an outcome of the Doha development round, which pledges to help uplift developing countries with fairer trade tariffs and rules, particularly in agriculture.

Negotiations have been on the go for almost 10 years and the most recent round broke down in 2008 when negotiators failed to reach a compromise on agricultural trade rules. But Davies said he remained optimistic on a conclusion to the round.

"As SA, we have said repeatedly that we are committed to seeking an early and successful completion to the Doha round, but we will define successful in terms of giving effect to the developmental mandate of Doha. And we've said before that if we have to choose between early and successful, we would choose successful," Davies said at a joint press briefing with his Brics counterparts following a meeting between Brics ministerial trade heads.

However, he said he was concerned that significant parts of the developing world appeared not to be ready to conclude negotiations. 

He said there was no other opportunity at present in which to reform multilateral trade rules. "I think the message that we would want to send out as South Africa is that there is no other kind of round other than Doha," said Davies, who arrived in Sanya last night. 

Brazil's under-secretary for foreign affairs, Valdemar Carneiro Leao, said all the members of Brics had "a strong interest" in seeing the Doha round succeed. 

"I will again emphasise the contributions given by the developing world have been unprecedented and it's important that this should be taken into mind," he said.

Davies said there was a need to develop a series of agreements and relationships that promoted development among the Brics group - particularly those that increased trade in value-added goods and investments in beneficiation of respective primary products of these countries.

He believed that the co-operation that Brics countries could help foster among themselves could be a "model" for the rest of the world.

China's Minister of Commerce, Chen Deming, said a liaison group would be set up to look into specific measures to broaden South-South relations and trade. 

Future trends would be assessed before a decision was taken whether to set up an institutional framework or carry out specific measures to expand business co-operation between Brics members.

Deming said he and his four counterparts had held a "fruitful" 90-minute meeting which covered three issues - the various policies adopted by each country following the global downturn, how Brics members can enhance trade and economic co-operation and how Brics countries can safeguard the interests of developing countries through multi-lateral co-operation.

"We still face many common challenges in the post-crisis era which require us to work even more closely, make the best use of our complementary advantages in capital, resources, market, science and technology and human resources and keep upgrading our economic co-operation and trade," said Deming.

He said the world economy was recovering, but still faced major challenges - including the crisis in the Arab world, Japan's recovery from last month's massive earthquake, a debt crisis in Europe, as well as the threat of increasing inflation and asset bubble problems.

These are aspects which the Bric countries would be watching closely, according to India's Minister of Commerce Anand Sharma.

Turning to the issue of Russia's ascendancy to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Deming said it was "extremely unreasonable" that 18 years after applying to join the world trade body, Russia still had not been granted membership.

He said the admission of Russia would make the WTO more representative and expand the influence of multilateral trading system.

Russia's Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Oleg Fomichev, expressed his gratitude for fellow Brics countries supporting Russia's membership to WTO membership and their pledge to help speed up negotiations at Geneva around Russia's ascension to the world trade body.

He said a large number of problems in each of the countries "carried common characters" and could be tackled by setting up institutional linkages between the Brics countries. 

Trade between the Brics countries between 2001 and 2010 increased 15 times, and is increasing 28 percent annually and now stands at $230 billion.

The five countries make up close to three billion people or 43 percent of the world's population, $11 trillion or 16 percent of world's GDP, and $4.6 trillion or 15 percent of world trade, said Deming.

South Africa's exports to Brics countries increased fourfold between 2006 and 2010, while imports had doubled from Bric countries, according to Davies.

This, while Brazil's trade with China has grown more than 10 times in the last five years - from $5 billion to $56 billion, with China last year becoming Brazil's biggest trade partner, said Leao.

Meanwhile, a smiling President Jacob Zuma touched down early this morning at Sanya Phoenix International Airport in the South African Airforce Boeing 737, the Nkwezi, accompanied by his wife Nompumelelo Ntuli.

Zuma and his delegation were greeted by a contingent of 18 guards and immediately left for his hotel, the Hilton Sanya Resort and Spa, in Yalong Bay.

Zuma is expected to hold bilateral meetings in Yalong Bay with his Russian counterpart, Dimitry Medvedev this afternoon, followed by a second bilateral meeting in the early evening with Chinese President Hu Jintao. - BuaNews