Industry groups, WCO welcome WTO trade framework
The framework agreement on trade liberalization agreed by rich and poor countries at the World Trade Organization last weekend has been praised by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the United States Council for International Business and the World Customs Organization, but criticized by farming interests in the United States.
“Small business in particular will benefit from the streamlined customs procedures and red tape reductions envisioned under the framework’s trade facilitation initiative,” Daniel Christman, U.S. Chamber senior vice president for international affairs, said Monday.
He said the five primary areas of concern addressed in the framework — agriculture, manufactured goods, services, trade facilitation and special consideration for the poorest countries — “constitute ‘must-do’ components of a successful multilateral round.” Christman urged trade negotiators to work hard to achieve meaningful results before the next ministerial conference convenes in December 2005.
The WTO accord is part of a round of trade talks commenced in 2001, known as the Doha round.
The urgency of these efforts increased in the wake of the collapsed September 2003 WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, according to the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce. The chamber predicts that U.S. goods and services will enjoy “greatly improved access” to foreign markets, as countries with the highest barriers agree to make the greatest reductions.
The U.S. Council for International Business, a pro-trade group based in New York, said Monday the final agreement after the WTO framework would “provide a tremendous shot in the arm for U.S. companies and the world economy.”
“The announced WTO framework agreement, while appropriately short on specifics, nevertheless points the way toward completion of the Doha round,” said Thomas Niles, president of the U.S. Council for International Business.
Citing negative initial comments from some U.S. lawmakers, Niles urged all concerned to examine the framework agreement closely before passing judgment, and to avoid turning the WTO “into a political football in an election year.”
The Washington-based National Farmers Union said Monday it is disappointed with the WTO framework agreement.
“This seems to be the administration’s way of accomplishing through the WTO what they could not achieve in Congress — the elimination of U.S. farm programs,” said Dave Frederickson, president of the union. He said U.S. farmers are being asked to make sacrifices without getting anything in return.
“Although the agreement allows the multilateral trade negotiations to enter the next phase, the implications for U.S. agricultural producers are troubling,” he added.
The World Customs Organization, a governmental body representing customs administrations, noted that the WTO framework includes the commencement of negotiations on trade facilitation.
The WCO welcomes the emphasis on enhanced technical assistance and capacity building for developing countries.
The Brussels-based customs body said Monday it is pleased that the WTO specifically calls for the work of the WCO in the area of trade facilitation to be taken into account. “As experts on border procedures, the WCO and the international customs community are ready to continue the contribution to the WTO process,” said WCO deputy secretary general Kunio Mikuriya. “We need to share the responsibility in this agenda, as Customs will be responsible for implementing any WTO commitments on border procedures.”