ACT NOW ON DOHA
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE REPORT
The international community should either reinvigorate the Doha Round now, with unilateral moves if necessary, or negotiations should be brought to a close, says the International Development Select Committee in today's report "Development and Trade: Cross-departmental Working".
The Committee has been concerned for some time that there is a very narrow window of opportunity for the international community to realise the World Trade Organisation's agenda (begun at Doha, Qatar in November 2001) of lowering trade barriers for the benefit of the developing world. The Committee heard evidence from Traidcraft saying that the Doha Round has become a "dead duck" as developed countries are failing to make sufficiently substantial moves.
Chairman of the Committee, Malcolm Bruce, says,
"Developed countries must accept responsibility if Doha fails. They should now either reinvigorate the process with unilateral moves or draw the process to a close if it is irretrievably moribund. The Government should continue to make the case for unilateral moves with other EU Member States and encourage all negotiators to approach Doha with the degree of flexibility needed to succeed.”
The Committee's report also addresses the machinery of government changes, made by the new Prime Minister in June 2007, which saw a shift in the Government’s management of trade policy, including giving the Department for International Development (DFID) a clear formal role in this policy area for the first time.
The Committee welcomes the new emphasis on development in trade policy, the new lines of ministerial responsibility and the new cross-departmental structures as having the potential to improve trade and development policy coherence to the benefit of poor countries. On the other hand, excessive complexity, unclear lines of accountability and new layers of bureaucracy risk undermining any improved coherence resulting from the changes. In essence, the Committee concludes, there remains an unhelpful lack of clarity and transparency over the mechanics of trade policy decision making.
Malcolm Bruce, Chairman of the Committee, says,
"It is absolutely right that trade and development policy should work in concert to lift the poor out of poverty. But lessons will need to be learnt from the confusion of the months following the announcement of these changes. The process for implementing the changes and their implications should be set out right at the start, rather than piecemeal and over a period of months."
The Committee welcomes the continuation of the role of Ministerial champion for combating corruption but says that the transfer of responsibility from DFID to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform should not mean that these matters are now seen largely from a trade perspective and that development concerns are neglected.
The Committee expresses concern that the Government has failed to act on some of the recommendations in its previous report on “Conflict and Development”. In that report, the Committee referred to evidence received from NGOs about the activities of two UK companies, Afrimex and Alfred Knight, in the Democratic Republic of Congo which might be inconsistent with OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. In this current inquiry, the Committee was surprised to learn that the Government had not pro-actively undertaken an investigation of Alfred Knight.
Chairman of the Committee, Malcolm Bruce, says,
"It is unacceptable that the Government has not investigated the activities of Alfred Knight despite the findings in our Conflict and Development Report and the evidence taken in that inquiry. We call on the Government to be pro-active in these matters generally and to investigate the case of Alfred Knight’s activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo in particular." The Committee has asked for a full report of DFID’s past, current and planned action in connection with the Alfred Knight case within six months. ENDS
1. Committee Membership is as follows: Malcolm Bruce MP (Chairman, Lib Dem), John Battle MP (Lab), Hugh Bayley MP (Lab), John Bercow MP (Con), Richard Burden MP (Lab), Mr Stephen Crabb (Con) James Duddridge MP (Con), Ann McKechin MP (Lab), Mr Marsha Singh (Lab), Jim Sheridan MP (Lab) Sir Robert Smith MP (Lib Dem).
2. Previous report referred to is:
Conflict and Development: Peacebuilding and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sixth Report, Session 2005-06, HC 923-I
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