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South Africa Won’t Back Scaled-Down Doha Round, Davies Says

South Africa won’t support a scaled-down version of World Trade Organization talks that departs from the developmental mandate of the Doha round of discussions, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said.

The Doha round won’t be concluded this year, though most WTO members would seek to finalize a smaller “package” of agreements that excludes agriculture reforms, Davies told journalists in Pretoria. Any agreement should deliver something for the world’s poorest nations and needs to include duty-free access to developed economies, he said.

“The bulk of the membership is not willing to declare Doha dead,” Davies said. “The bulk of the membership would prefer to see work continue on a plan B. We are not interested in picking up something that is very different from the developmental mandate.”

The Doha round of talks, which began in Doha, Qatar, in 2001, were meant to add billions of dollars to the global economy by spurring cross-border commerce. WTO negotiators are pursuing a deal in which rich governments including the European Union and the U.S. would lower farm subsidies and tariffs in exchange for fast-growing emerging markets such as China and India opening up their economies to imports of agricultural goods and manufactured products.

South Africa has “many alternatives” to multilateral trade negotiations within the WTO system, Davies said. The country’s membership of an economic bloc including Brazil, Russia, India and china, known as BRICS, created new opportunities for multi-lateral and bilateral trade agreements.

“Our membership of BRICS gives us huge opportunities to develop different patterns of trade relationships,” he said. “We’ll seek to build relationships among ourselves.”

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