This year will be the “make-or-break year” for stalled trade talks which could boost the global economy by more than £100 billion, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
Mr Cameron issued a challenge to all world leaders to get behind a deal in the Doha Round talks on trade liberalisation, warning: “No one should hold anything back for later,” and added that failure to complete the round this year would make a “radical rethink” necessary.
The Prime Minister rejected arguments for protectionist trade policies to defend domestic jobs in the wake of the recession, saying: “Fighting protectionism is a vital part of security, growth and prosperity for us all.”
Trade is not a “zero-sum game” in which imports of low-cost goods from China damage the UK by reducing its own opportunity to export, said Mr Cameron. Instead, the UK benefits from increased choice, competition and low prices in the shops.
It is “ridiculous” that the World Trade Organisation negotiations, which began in the Qatari city of Doha in 2001, have still produced no agreement, said the Prime Minister.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he welcomed Friday’s publication of the Trade Experts Group’s interim report, which found that to be a success, the negotiations must be concluded by the end of 2011.
Completion of the round, which aims to remove barriers to trade and open rich-world markets up to poorer countries, would provide a massive boost to the global recovery from recession, said Mr Cameron.
“Trade is the biggest wealth creator we’ve ever known,” he said. “And it’s the biggest stimulus we can give our economies right now. A completed trade round could add 170 billion US dollars (£106 billion) to the world economy.”
In a message to other world leaders, Mr Cameron said: “We’ve been at this Doha Round for far too long. It’s frankly ridiculous that it has taken 10 years to do this deal. We simply cannot spend another 10 years going round in circles.
“If we don’t get the deal done this year it is hard to see how the Doha process can have any further credibility. If we enter 2012 still stuck on this, real leadership will mean a radical rethink of how we get this done.”