20 July 2008
New Zealand firms urge bilateral trade pacts after WTO failure
Author : DPA
Wellington — New Zealand business organisations urged their government on Wednesday to negotiate more bilateral and regional free trade pacts following the collapse of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Geneva. Trade Minister Phil Goff said there could now be no agreement to free up global trade until at least the second half of next year, even though the Geneva meeting went closer to finalising a deal than at any time since the Doha Development Round was launched in 2001.
"Sadly, the potential for an agreement to boost development and world trade at a critical time, when the international economy is so fragile, has been lost for the time being," Goff said.
Charles Finny, a former government trade negotiator who now heads the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the deal that was emerging at Geneva would not have made any one member of the WTO happy with all its elements.
"But it was a package that would have seen everyone better off than they would be without it," he said. "An agreement would have sent exactly the right signals for the current fragile state of the global economy and the breakdown represents a real set back."
Other business leaders urged the government to step up efforts to negotiate proposed bilateral agreements with South Korea, Japan and the United States and to press for freer trade within the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organisation.