New Zealand’s new ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), David Walker, will take over as the next chairman of the WTO’s sensitive agriculture talks, the head of the WTO’s general council said April 8.
Chile’s WTO Ambassador Mario Matus said in a statement to delegations that a consensus had emerged among the WTO’s 153 members to appoint Walker to chair the negotiations.
Walker replaces Crawford Falconer, the previous New Zealand ambassador who was recalled to Wellington this month to take up a senior Foreign Ministry post.
Falconer was highly respected among WTO members for his painstaking ability to find common ground between rich and poor countries and food exporters and importers.
Together with industrial goods, agriculture forms one of the core areas of negotiations in the WTO’s Doha round, launched in late 2001 to free up world trade.
An outline agreement must be reached in these areas before a comprehensive trade deal can be concluded.
Agriculture accounts for only a small part of world trade, but is important to developing countries keen to defend the interests of their millions of subsistence farmers.
For many developing countries, who make up the majority of the WTO’s 153 members, eliminating distortions in farm trade that benefit rich countries is the main business of the Doha talks.