LCQ8: Doha Development Agenda negotiations

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, (in the absence of the Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development) to a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam in the Legislative Council today (May 18):


     It has been reported that the World Trade Organisation's  Doha Development Agenda (Doha Round) of trade negotiations, which was launched in 2001 aiming at trade liberalisation, has remained at an impasse despite the approaching deadline for its closure, and there is increasing evidence suggesting its faltering progress - in particular in respect of the area of services that is critically important to Hong Kong. Regarding the aforesaid situation, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether the Government has any plan in response to the possible collapse of the Doha Round; if it has, of the details; and

(b)  of the alternative means that the Government will need to pursue to protect Hong Kong's global trade interests in the event of such a collapse?



     Ever since its launch in 2001, the Doha Round has progressed slowly, with periodic crises and a string of missed deadlines and opportunities.  Most recently in November 2010, leaders at the G20 Seoul Summit and the Yokohama Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting renewed their commitment to conclude the Doha Round in 2011.  Despite an intensive work programme, and the fact that a deal would be "doable" under the right conditions, the latest development is that fundamental differences over Non-Agricultural Market Access have effectively been blocking progress and putting the successful conclusion of the Round this year into serious doubt.  There are also differences in other areas.

     While this is clearly disappointing, it is premature to look beyond Doha at this stage when all efforts should focus on how to close the remaining gaps.  

     At this critical juncture, while Hong Kong cannot push for a breakthrough on its own, we continue to play a bridging role as best as we can in taking forward the negotiations.  Ministers of 13 World Trade Organisation (WTO) Members including Hong Kong, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland, issued an open letter on April 15, 2011 as a collective appeal to all WTO Members to bring about a successful conclusion of the Round as soon as possible.  We will also make use of the coming Ministerial gatherings, in which the Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development will participate, to work closely with other attending WTO Members to find ways to break the deadlock.  These include the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting to be held in the US on May 19-20, 2011 as well as the Informal Ministerial Meeting to be hosted by Australia in the margin of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Ministerial Council Meeting on May 26, 2011.  

     In parallel with the Doha Round negotiations, Hong Kong has been actively pursuing other trade initiatives that will enhance and secure our access to other markets.  While upholding our commitment to the primacy of the multilateral trading system, we have been pursuing with other economies high quality Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that go beyond the commitments under the WTO.  We consider that high quality FTAs which are fully WTO-consistent should help strengthen economic relations with our trading partners, and promote global trade liberalisation.  So far, we have implemented a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with the Mainland of China and a Closer Economic Partnership Agreement with New Zealand.  FTA negotiations with the European Free Trade Association (comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) have been concluded, and we hope that we could sign the Agreement in the not too distant future.  We will also explore other opportunities to negotiate FTA with other trading partners where appropriate.

Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:01