The comments were made in an informal meeting of heads of delegations, the
first opportunity for WTO member governments to react to the
first draft of the package to be submitted to the end-of-July General Council meeting.
Speaking in the meeting and at a press conference
afterwards, Ambassador Oshima stressed that the present text is a draft and
not an agreed text, based on many months of consultations and negotiations.
He and Dr Supachai, who chairs the Trade
Negotiations Committee, described the draft as the most accurate
“approximation” of where consensus might be found.
It does not reflect the negotiating position of
the chairs but the positions that members have conveyed in various meetings,
Dr Supachai told delegates.
“Convergence must come from the membership,” he
said. “There is no doubt that political leaders throughout the WTO
membership want to agree on a July package that re-energizes the Doha
He reminded them that the draft is not for a final
agreement of the Doha Round, but the basis for continuing negotiations after
“I think it is vital that delegations approach
this text in a constructive spirit, seeing it not as an end in itself but as
a means to help us move the Doha Development Agenda forward,” Dr Supachai
And he warned against making too many changes on
questions that could be tackled later because that could lead to failure
with devastating results.
“Let’s aim to minimize our disappointments,” he
told the meeting, “and to wait post-July to live and fight another day.”
Ambassador Oshima said that for a number of
reasons — including festivities planned in Geneva from 31 July — the talks
cannot extend beyond Friday 30 July, which he described as a “drop-dead”
“We’ll have to ask the membership to really
engage,” he told journalists afterwards.
See the chairs’
The discussion back to top
Altogether about 50 delegations spoke, including
representatives of various groups. All welcomed the draft as a good platform
for the coming two weeks of negotiations, but all also had reservations. On
some issues, the comments pulled in opposite directions — for example where
some found a part of the draft framework to be too specific others said it
was not specific enough. Many delegates linked issues that cut across
The discussion covered a considerable amount of
detail. Among the key issues emerging:
A number of major net importing countries objected to the proposed ceilings
(or “caps”) on tariffs, cuts on tariffs on all products and expansions on
all tariff quotas. They considered the flexibility given to protect their
sensitive products to be inadequate.
On the other
hand a number of developing countries complained that the more specific
“comfort” given to the richer countries for their sensitive products was not
matched by the vaguer flexibilities to be given to developing countries. The
agriculture negotiations chair, Ambassador Tim Groser, had suggested that it
would be more appropriate to negotiate the flexibilities for developing
countries (under “special products” and “special safeguards mechanisms”)
after the developed countries’ flexibilities had been settled — several
developing countries said the two should not be linked.
Some countries also said the text needed to be clearer on such issues as
setting disciplines on indirect forms of export subsidies, the proposed
principles for cutting tariffs and improving market access, and non-trade
Several refrained from going into detail
on agriculture, preferring to wait for comments from their capitals,
consultations within their groups and a meeting specifically on agriculture.
Cotton: Several countries underscored the importance they attach to
this proposal. Some maintained that it should be handled on its own, outside
the agriculture negotiations. One developing country said it does not matter
how the subject is negotiated so long as the result is substantial in both
the trade and developmental aspects.
Treatment for developing countries: A debate that cut across several
topics reflected a division among developing countries themselves.
A number of these (particularly in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific)
are strong advocates of special treatment, including exemptions and
additional flexibilities for weaker and more vulnerable countries, and
measures to deal with the erosion of preferences (for example, when
duty-free access becomes less meaningful when the normal duty rate charged
on imports from other countries is reduced).
other side of the debate are developing countries (particularly in Latin
America and Asia) that are afraid that these proposals would create new
categories of countries. This group also objects to preferences that are
given only to selected groups of countries.
Non-agricultural market access (i.e. industrial products): The main
debate was about the use of the draft from Cancún as an annex in this draft,
as the basis for negotiations. Several developing countries objected to the
use of what they described as a rejected text, even though a covering letter
from the negotiations’ chair, Ambassador Stefán Jóhannesson, described the
objections and explained why the text had been used — there was no
acceptable alternative available. Several developed and developing countries
supported negotiations based on this text.
Services: A number of developing and developed countries called for
services to be placed more prominently in the main text, for example as a
separate paragraph, to reflect the fact that they consider it to be
facilitation and the other “Singapore issues”: Most members accepted
the sections of the draft dealing with both subjects, although several
wanted further clarification.
facilitation, questions included: whether flexibilities (for example where
developing countries’ obligations would be related to their capacities)
would shield them from possible dispute proceedings in the WTO; and how firm
the commitments on technical assistance would be.
On the other Singapore issues (investment, competition policy and
transparency in government procurement), there was still some discussion of
whether these should be dropped completely from the WTO, or only from
negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda. One country proposed
postponing a decision on this until the next Ministerial Conference.
Balance across subjects: Several countries said that if they are to
agree to significant reforms in agriculture, they would need significant
improvements in market access for non-agricultural products and services.
Next back to top
The rest of the week will be spent in consultations in a number of formats,
with another meeting for the heads of all delegations planned for
Friday 23 July.
A special meeting, open to all members, to allow
delegations to ask questions and discuss the agriculture annex was scheduled
for the evening of Wednesday 21 July.