13 enero 2010


Taken from, Belgium

Brussels- Incoming EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht has said he is "quite confident" that the Doha round of world trade negotiations will be completed in 2010 or 2011.

Appearing before MEPs for his three-hour hearing as commissioner-designate, De Gucht - who currently holds the development portfolio - said he ould make it a priority to conclude the Doha round.

The Doha talks began in 2001 and aimed at reaching an agreement to remove trade barriers for less developed countries.

However, negotiations have been hit by severe delays and talks collapsed in 2008, with India, China and the US were left divided over a proposed tariff to protect poor farmers.
"I'm personally confident that we are going to conclude the Doha round," the commissioner-designate told MEPs.

"I don't know if it's going to be in 2010 or 2011, [but] we have to do that deal."

Setting out his stall in his opening speech De Gucht, Belgium's former foreign affairs minister and an MEP for 15 years, said he had built up the necessary skills that a negotiator needs to have, gaining experience in "making alliances across political and ideological boundaries".

Praising the work of parliamentarians, he said the institution was key to ensuring EU accountability.

Parliament's role will be even stronger as a result of the Lisbon treaty, which strongly increases its decision making powers, particularly in relation to trade legislation and agreements, he added.

The commissioner-designate also spoke out in favour of free trade and the "tenets of EU trade policy - open markets backed up by a rules-based international trading system".

"However this is not a simplistic belief in free trade or open markets as goals in themselves," he said.

"Free trade must be a tool to generate prosperity and development. When supported by the right rules and institutions, free trade delivers win-win outcomes."

Calling on the EU to "lead by example" in exercising fair trade practices, he insisted that "does not mean we should accept unfair trade practices or protectionism by others".

De Gucht also warned against imposing a carbon tax on EU borders, telling MEPs that such a move could lead to "trade wars".

"In terms of border adjustments, I'm against it," he said. "I don't see that as the right approach - it's one that will lead to lots of practical problems.

"We've seen it in the past. The big risk is that it will also lead to an escalating trade war on a global level."

Speaking to reporters after his hearing, De Gucht also warned over the weak Chinese yuan, saying it presented a "major problem" and that revaluation would help boost the global economy.

"It is obvious that the undervaluation of the Chinese currency is a major problem," he said.

"It's not immediately in the remit of my portfolio… But it is clear to me that this is a deliberate policy and we should address this at all possible occasions, bilaterally and also multilaterally."