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WTO Public Forum, WTO Headquarters, Geneva

Rt Hon the Lord Paul
Baroness Hooper

The Forum was opened by President Chinchilla Miranda, President of Costa Rica. As well as sketching the historic and moral case for free trade as an answer to the current world economic crisis, he underlined Costa Rica’s successful contribution to the development of world trade and exhorted the delegates to press for a multilateral approach to free trade and to finding new ways to ensure confidence and progress especially with the troubled Doha Round.

The 183 member countries of the WTO were largely represented. The conference agenda was full with many working sessions competing in parallel and dealing with current trade challenges: ‘Made in the World’ labelling, the Arab Spring, the Doha Round and many other issues such as sustainable energy, food security and intellectual property rights

The IPU/EP working session focused on Trade in Natural Resources – Curse or Blessing and sought a parliamentary perspective.
From a starting point which established that 24% is in natural resources and that 50% of such resources come from the less developed countries, the special characteristics of trade in natural resources – exhaustability, uneven geographic distribution, lack of diversification and vulnerability to environmental change – were fully discussed. It was concluded that parliamentarians have an obligation to exert influence and to raise questions concerning prices, exploitation, openness and transparency and education.

The High Level Session, one-to-one interview between the Director General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, and Moderator, Zeniab Badawi, covered the theme of Global Trade Challenges. This included the importance of the multilateral approach, reciprocity as an essential principle of WTO, that trade cannot be looked at in isolation, the need to have a pragmatic step by step approach to break the ‘impasse’ on the DOHA round and much more. It was a most stimulating session.

The IPU Steering Committee took place on the last day of the Forum. It was well attended and we heard from the Deputy Secretary General of WTO, Mrs Valentine, and the two Members of the European Parliament who reported on a review of the WTO made by the EP. Issues discussed included the importance of regular sessions of the Steering Committee and a commitment to organising a working session during the WTO Forum if again invited by the Secretary General.

It was agreed that there was a need to put parliamentary pressure on a way forward for the DOHA Round and for the IPU Secretariat to follow up with a press release and full reports on meetings.

Baroness Hooper CMG