Intra-Arab trade has got a significant boost since the WTO’s Doha Round, former Minister of Economy and Trade, Sheikh Mohamed bin Ahmed al-Thani has said.
“The Doha Round talks may not have been successfully concluded yet, but these have already impacted the Arab economies positively,” Sheikh Mohamed said at the ‘Doha Business Roundtable’ here yesterday.
He said almost all Arab countries, from Morocco to Oman, have opened up their economies, post Doha Round in 2001. These have become much more competitive in the last seven or eight years.
“Arab countries- be it Dubai or Libya, now speak one language when it comes to economic development. They have modernised and opened up their economies. The process was speeded up by the Doha Round of WTO talks. Nevertheless, obstacles remain,” Sheikh Mohamed said.
Sheikh Mohamed said he was optimistic that the Doha Round talks would have a successful conclusion in the days ahead, boosting global trade and helping poor countries prosper.
“It is heartening to note that all major countries such as the US and emerging powers including China and India are actively pursuing Doha Round talks. An agreement is quite possible,” he said.
Sheikh Mohamed said Qatar’s total commitment to hosting the event and making it a success was crucial because the event took place in Doha, just two months after the 9/11 attacks in the US.
“There were many sceptics. But our leadership was committed to holding the Doha Round. Being a neutral country, Qatar could play a key role in ending the stalemate during the course of discussions between the member countries,” he said.
The Doha round, which was launched in late 2001 with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through trade, has suffered many setbacks and is now the longest set of world trade talks since the modern rules-based trading system began.
After nearly eight years of negotiations, many of the WTO’s 153 members are anxious to strike a deal on the basic modalities of agricultural and manufacturing trade reform.
Recently, at the G20 Summit at Pittsburgh, the US administration had come under pressure from other governments to set an early 2010 deadline for progress on the long running world trade talks.
The Obama administration, already facing a tough battle in Congress to win approval of healthcare reform, is anxious to avoid upsetting farm and manufacturing groups whose support would be needed to win congressional approval of any new world trade deal.
Sheikh Mohamed said he did not agree with the notion that globalisation was not in the best interests of emerging economies. Citing Qatar’s economic development in the last 10 years he said, “we have benefited a lot from globalisation”.
In his remarks, Chris Gibson-Smith, Chairman of the London Stock Exchange said, “The central banks’ liquidity is now lubricating the cogs of the global economy. It is not desirable, but it is a reality.”
The roundtable on the theme Gulf 2020: Scenario planning in a post-crisis world economy was chaired by Simon Cox, economics correspondent for The Economist. Jane Kinninmont, EIU’s MENA editor presented Economist Intelligence Unit research examining long-term demographic trends in the GCC, followed by a panel discussion on regional investments and growth models with Linda Hill, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, as one of the panellists.
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