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Green Doha Deal

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Rich countries' talk of an early deal on the liberalization of trade in environmental goods and services at the first ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in four years sounds quite pertinent on the eve of the climate change summit in Copenhagen.

It is important for the international community to acknowledge that climate change is also a question of economics and trade.

However, the call can be just a piece of grandstanding if these countries can neither fulfill their promises on financing and technology transfer to help developing countries deal with climate change, nor do their bit to wrap up the development-oriented Doha accord in 2010.

Environmental issues do need to move up the trade agenda. It is widely believed that trade in green goods and services will not only serve as an engine for future prosperity but also play a vital role in the global fight against climate change.

By concluding the Doha Round quickly while making it more environment-friendly, WTO members can collectively demonstrate their ability and determination to strengthen the multilateral trading system and rise to emerging challenges like global warming.

But factoring environmental pressures into the Doha agenda does not mean that rich nations can thus resequence negotiation issues simply because they are generally more competitive than developing countries in these areas.

After all, the Doha Round is a development round. It should certainly first look at how to help developing countries under the new global trade rules.

A greener Doha deal is desirable if it does not come at the expense of developing countries, especially the least developed ones.

Profound changes in world trade and the global economy since 2001 have, to a certain extent, added to the difficulties in securing a Doha deal to help poor countries prosper through opening up trade.

But it was mainly differences between developed and developing countries over access to agricultural and non-agricultural markets that have led to a deadlock in the Doha Round of world trade talks in the past eight years.

After several missed deadlines, WTO members have set the latest deadline for concluding the round for 2010. The worst global financial and economic crisis in many decades and the looming challenge of climate change have now made it even more urgent to seal a Doha deal quickly.

A greener Doha accord can kill two birds with one stone: It can give a much-needed boost to the fragile world economy while preparing the ground for an adequate global response to climate change.

Yet, to make it fair as well, rich countries must deliver on their promise of financing and technology transfer to developing countries to combat climate change as aggressively as they attempt to profit from the greening of a Doha deal.

(China Daily December 4, 2009)

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