Executives step up pressure for Doha trade deal

Original Publication Date: 
28 February, 2007

Letters from two coalitions of chief executives urging completion of the Doha round in today's Financial Times have a familiar ring. Unlike previous broadsides, there might be a sustained follow-up.

Assorted groups of executives and business lobbies have made similar calls in recent years for progress in manufacturing and services liberalisation. But for much of that time, negotiators including Peter Mandelson, European Union trade commissioner, have complained that, with the exception of some service sector companies, there has been a lack of focused day-to-day business pressure for a deal. Such lobbying helped bring the Uruguay round of trade talks to an end in 1994.

Peter Power, spokesman for Mr Mandelson, said yesterday: "We welcome the interest shown by industry, which has become much more visible in recent months."

European officials place the turning point around the beginning of the year. In January, Medef, the French employers' confederation, said EU states should give Mr Mandelson freedom to negotiate, defying objections from Paris that he had exceeded his mandate.

US officials say they were sought out by several chief executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos to press home the importance of Doha.

It remains to be seen how much businesses will continue to engage once the outline of a draft deal emerges. Detailed knowledge and commitment to multilateral trade issues among senior executives often appears elusive.

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chief executive of Nestl