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The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being held in Valletta, Malta, has provided a platform for developing countries to secure a positive and meaningful consensus on multilateral trade from their counterparts in the developed world. Prime Minister P.J. Patterson who has responsibility for External Negotiations within CARICOM, said the achievement was an important milestone for the region as; “we have consistently highlighted the need for greater equity and market access in international trade”.
In a statement on multilateral trade issued on day two of the conference, concern has been expressed about the consequences of the development challenges facing developing countries, particularly those that are traditionally dependent on preferential market access arrangements. The adverse implications of the recent announcement by the European Union on sugar as it relates to employment, incomes and export earnings for small and vulnerable countries of the Commonwealth including the Caribbean, was also highlighted. The Leaders have called on the EU to provide transitional financial arrangements proportionate to that provided to producers in Europe.
Heads of Government of the 53 nations of the Commonwealth reaffirmed their commitment to the objectives of the Doha Development Round and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and have instructed their delegations to the Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong to place priority on a genuinely development-oriented Round for the collective good of all countries. The Leaders asserted that the Doha Round should be brought to a successful conclusion by the end of 2006 and said this should be measured by the extent to which there are early and substantial dividends for all developing countries, as well as the extent to which the development dimensions permeate all aspects of the negotiated outcomes.
“We believe that the outcome of the Doha Round must be based on higher ambitions than are currently evident and the Commonwealth collectively pledges its global influence to correct this,” the statement said.
The Heads took note of the importance of agriculture to development and economic growth and said that while the sector should not be regarded in isolation, significant progress on these negotiations would provide an impetus for progress in other negotiating areas of the Round. In this regard, the Heads have charged the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Conference to arrive at an agreement on the elimination of all forms of export subsidies by 2010, as well as secure time-bound commitments for substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support and significant improvements in market access.
Caribbean Leaders have expressed appreciation that the importance of appropriate special and differential treatment for developing countries and small states in particular were highlighted, considering that these countries have not benefited fully from past multilateral trade negotiations and do not possess the capacity to adjust or benefit immediately from the outcomes envisaged in the Doha Development Agenda.