WTO: 2008 NEWS ITEMS

WTO NEWS — DDA JULY 2008 PACKAGE: SUMMARY 25 JULY


NOTE:

THIS NEWS ITEM IS DESIGNED TO HELP THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE WTO. WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS’ POSITIONS.

SEE ALSO:
July 2008 package
Briefing notes

Meeting summaries:
21 July
22 July
23 July
24 July
26 July
27-28 July
29 July
30 July


The fifth day of these ministerial-level negotiations began as usual with Mr Lamy’s daily report to the full membership in the informal Trade Negotiations Committee.

“This is the blunt reality,” he said. “The situation as I see it is critical, edging between success and failure.”

An outcome that would benefit all countries is within delegations’ grasp, he said, but to achieve that countries will have to consider moving their positions on some issues they have been describing as impossible to change — their “red lines”.

“You will all have to give hard thought to your red lines, not in a week, not in a month, but in the next hours,” he said.

Mr Lamy said he had responded to the previous day’s comments by adjusting the way the negotiations are organized. The negotiations on 24 July included meetings of the seven ministers and of the larger representative group (the so-called Green Room meetings of about 30 ministers). These meetings will continue to follow the well-known “concentric circles” structure with the full membership having the final say, he said.

While some delegations continued to express concerns about the way the talks are organized, others said the blockage is not caused by the process but by content of the talks — the “hardened red lines” as one speaker put it.

Some called for Mr Lamy to draft a compromise text for negotiators to use, some others opposed this.

Mr Lamy assured members that there will be no surprises either in the way the talks are organized or in the content. A new “surprise” text will not help convergence, he said, only the members can narrow the gaps.

All members will have a chance to tackle specific issues that concern them, Mr Lamy concluded. “I heard you, and you will have some time.” But time is also running short, he said.

 

Agriculture and non-agricutlure

Mr Lamy reported briefly on the previous day’s negotiations. (For explanations see: unofficial guide to the 10 July 2008 agriculture draft, available here, and “the July 2008 NAMA modalities text made simple”)

Agriculture: members agreed to work within the ranges of numbers in the draft modalities text but with serious differences between the low and high ends of many of these ranges. On the limits on overall trade distorting domestic support for the EU and US “we are not there yet”, and the outcome on cotton also depends on this. There is convergence on a 70% cut in the highest (“top tier”) agricultural tariffs for developed countries, he said, but not on tariffs ending up higher than 100% (the present drafts envisages some kind of cap on tariffs at 100%, with some exceptions).

There was some convergence on the number of products that could be designated as sensitive (and shielded from the full cut of the tariff formula provided some access at a lower tariff is allowed within a tariff quota). But, he went on, members remain divided on the size of the tariff quota, which will be a percentage of domestic consumption. And, he said, there was limited discussion on whether a member could call a product “sensitive” if it did not already have a tariff quota on that product (often misleadingly described as the question of creating “new tariff quotas”).

Members are “not there yet” on the number of special products developing countries can identify and shield from the tariff cutting formula and on the question of whether any of these could totally escape cuts, Mr Lamy reported. But on developing countries’ right to temporarily increase tariffs to deal with import surges or price slumps — the new “special safeguard mechanism” — some ideas were floated and these are being discussed in consultations with agriculture negotiations chairperson Crawford Falconer, he said. Members also showed signs of flexibility on the present “special safeguard” (which all members can use and some want to be scrapped).

Non-agricultural (industrial goods) market access (NAMA): Mr Lamy reported limited progress in narrowing the ranges of numbers in the formula and related flexibilities. On the anti-concentration clause (a proposal to prevent an entire sector from being shielded from cuts), members discussed possible references to the numbers of products countries have defined for customs purposes (the “national tariff lines”) and the value of trade, and the possibility of excluding sectors that only have a small number of products. On “sectorals” (free or freer trade in a sector), members discussed wording designed to ensure this is voluntary and at the same time workable.

Industrial goods chairperson Don Stephenson has also been consulting members on provisions for preferences, for small and vulnerable economies and for Venezuela.

Intellectual property: Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to report on his consultations on three intellectual property issues: the multilateral register for wines’ and spirits’ geographical indications (GIs), extending higher level geographical indications protection beyond wines and spirits (“GI extension”), and proposals to require patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic material and traditional knowledge (“disclosure”) — formally the relationship between the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). (See explanations here.)

Mr Støre reported that he had consulted a number of delegations, including some who asked to meet him. He said it was clear that these issues depend on what happens in other subjects. On the multilateral register, the main difference is in the technical question of the register’s legal effect, he said. On the extension of higher-level geographical indications protection, the difference is over the main substance of the issue, he reported, whereas on the “disclosure” question members recognize the underlying concerns.

 

Next

Mr Lamy said both the services signalling conference and the formal Trade Negotiations Committee will probably have to be postponed. And he told delegations to standby in case another informal meeting is called at short notice.

In a press conference afterwards, WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell said the seven ministers would resume talks at about midday and this could be followed by a meeting of the larger “Green Room”. Asked whether the talks could continue into the following week, Mr Rockwell said ministers have indicated they would be willing to do so if progress is made today.

He confirmed that the discussions include proposed compromise numbers, which Mr Lamy and the negotiating group chairs have been suggesting to test whether members might accept them.

 

Speakers

Today’s speakers in the informal Trade Negotiations Committee were: Colombia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, Switzerland, Cuba, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, Pakistan, Chile, and Uruguay.

Texts of some of the statements — those supplied by delegations for publication on the website — can be found here.

Audio:

Opening remarks by Chair and report by Jonas Gahr Store

Closing remarks by Chair

> Press Conference: Mr. Keith Rockwell, WTO Spokesman

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More Audio/podcasting

  

Video:

Highlights of remarks by Chair

Remarks by Chair in full

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