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.
He said he would call a formal meeting of the Trade Negotiations
Committee the following day for members to comment but he suggested they
should wait for the “dust to settle” before deciding how to move ahead.
“It is no use beating around the bush. This meeting has collapsed.
Members have not been able to bridge their differences,” he told
So close ...
The talks’ failure does not mean the end of the Doha Round. Mr Lamy told
an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee that he remains
convinced that what is on the table represents twice or three times more
than has been achieved in any previous multilateral trade negotiation.
Much was achieved in these meetings, he said.
They began on Monday 21 July and ran late into the night and through the
weekend. But in a sequence of meetings following the “concentric circles”
structure, he told participants that there was no escaping the fact that
ministers had been unable to bridge their differences on one key issue,
the special safeguard mechanism in farm products for developing
Today’s meetings included a group of seven ministers, followed by the Green
Room session of about 30 representative delegations (with 20
ministers still present) and finally in the informal meeting of the full
The membership will be given a chance to comment when the formal Trade
Negotiations Committee meeting takes place on Wednesday 30 July.
But still on the table are the draft agriculture and non-agricultural
“modalities” texts (containing formulas for cutting tariffs and
agricultural subsidies, flexibilities for making different cuts, and
related rules and disciplines), he reported. Ministers’ positions had
converged on many issues, he said.
To-do list almost done
He told a press conference afterwards that out of a “to-do list” of 20
topics, 18 had seen positions converge but the gaps could not narrow on
the 19th — the special safeguard mechanism for developing countries,
which would allow developing countries to raise tariffs temporarily in
order to deal with import surges and price falls.
The difference boiled down to some wanting a high “trigger” (a large
import surge needed to trigger the tariff increase) in order to avoid
the safeguard being triggered by normal trade growth, while others
wanted a lower trigger so that the safeguard could be easier to use and
more useful, he said.
“After more than 36 hours trying to find bridges between these two
positions, today it became clear that the differences were
irreconcilable. The remaining issues, including cotton, were not even
He said he was personally disappointed. “I had hoped to come to you
today with good news,” he told journalists. “The good news would have
been that after a whole week of extenuating negotiations, after hours
and hours of seniors officials and ministers meetings, we had converged
on a final package comprising the issues that all of us care about.
“I was hoping to say that we had slashed and capped the level of trade
distorting subsidies like never before. I was hoping to announce that
beef, sugar, ethanol, tropical products or products suffering from
tariff escalation [higher tariffs on processed products than raw
materials] would now see an improvement of their market access
“I was hoping to tell you that tariff peaks on industrial products of
interest for developing countries had been slashed, that least developed
countries would consolidate duty-free and quota-free market access in
the WTO, that exports support in the form of subsidies, state trading
enterprises, exports credits or food aid had been removed.
“All this was ready for a final package but some important pieces were
missing. The special safeguard measure for developing countries to
counter surges in food imports and cotton, not to talk about the issues
of GIs [geographical indications] and biodiversity [the intellectual
property proposals on geographical indications and patent reforms
related to genetic materials and traditional knowledge]. And the list
Mr Lamy gave a rough estimate of the economic cost of the failure.
“What members have let slip through their fingers is a package worth
more than $130 billion in tariff saving annually by the end of the
implementation period, with $35 billion saving in agriculture and $95
billion in industrial goods.
“With developing countries contributing one third and benefiting from
two thirds of the overall gains [this would be] a true development round
… with a rebalancing of the rules of the trading system in favour of
Mr Lamy turned to the future. “What happens to the package already on
the table? what happens with the Round?
“We will need to let the dust settle. It is probably difficult to look
too far into the future at this point. WTO members will need to have a
sober look at if and how they bring the pieces back together.
“This is certainly not going to strengthen the multilateral trading
system; it will not improve the system which has provided all its
members an insurance policy against protectionism over the last 60
“But I hope the system is resilient and will be able to resist the bumpy
road ahead of us.
“For my part I will continue to serve this organization and its members
as best as I can and devote my efforts to a fairer trading system.”
points for the Director-General
> Press conference transcript
by Pascal Lamy at the informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting
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