WTO NEWS: 2004 NEWS ITEMS
DDA JULY 2004 PACKAGE:
PROGRESS ON AGRICULTURE AND MEETING SUMMARY, 29 AND 28 JULY
Supachai welcomes input from the Five as a key first step
Agreement among five key members on the agriculture text is a welcome and important input into the talks, WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said on 29 July 2004. But he cautioned that no WTO agriculture framework deal is possible without support from the rest of the membership.
He was commenting on an agreement reached by ministers from Australia,
Brazil, the EU, India and the US overnight 28–29 July, in consultations held
outside the WTO.
Delegates from the five — which include representatives of other members, particularly the Cairns Group and G-20 — spent the morning of Thursday 29 July explaining their agreement privately to various other groups.
This followed a meeting of heads of delegations the previous evening when a number of members complained that they had been kept in the dark and warned that they would not allow time pressure to be used to force them to accept a text they disliked.
With progress reported on other areas as well, WTO members spent much of 29 July waiting to see the details in a revised draft decision, due out later that day.
The 28 July meeting:
facilitator sees clearer picture for farm text
THIS BRIEFING NOTE IS DESIGNED TO HELP JOURNALISTS AND THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE DOHA AGENDA NEGOTIATIONS. WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS' POSITIONS.
Although very late in the process, key delegations have now given enough political guidance to allow a revised draft on agriculture to be prepared, the subject’s facilitator, Tim Groser, told an evening meeting of heads of WTO delegations on Wednesday 28 July 2004. He said he would give a new draft to General Council chairperson Shotaro Oshima the next day (Thursday 29 July).
However many delegations complained that they had been left out of the talks, which have been conducted mainly among ministers from five members and they highlighted points that they could not accept in any new draft. Ambassador Groser said their comments would not be “brushed aside.
The meeting began at 20:15 and lasted about an hour.
At chairperson Oshima’s invitation, Ambassador
Groser reported on the latest state of play in the agriculture negotiations.
He said he was “in a much better frame of mind” than he had been that
morning because he had received clearer guidance on how to narrow the gaps
on major differences. He said he would not spell out the details yet,
preferring to go through all the many proposals he had received first.
But Ambassador Groser did hint that progress had been made on how to deal with subsidized export credit, food aid and state trading enterprises, in a way that would match the proposal to get rid of export subsidies by a negotiated date. He also said complaints about the unequal treatment for developed countries’ sensitive products (which are described in some detail in the current draft), and developing countries’ provisions for their “special products”, would be amended in response to the complaints.
There is now a real chance of “saving the Doha Round”, he said.
Meanwhile parallel talks are underway on the cotton initiative, Ambassador Groser reported.
Some 27 countries spoke. Most criticized the
process, which this week has largely been in discussions among the five. But
almost all praised Ambassador Groser himself for listening to all of their
concerns and briefing them regularly.
Strongest criticism came from members of the G-10 group (details of the groups can be found here), and some others. They were concerned that with so little time before the 30 July deadline, they would be forced to accept a text without the opportunity of participating in its drafting.
Switzerland, which coordinates the G-10, read out a statement on behalf of confederation President Joseph Deiss saying the five should at least have “had the courtesy” to hold information sessions with the rest of the membership. Others will have to have a chance to participate in multilateral talks on the text, Switzerland went on. Time pressure could not be used to justify forcing the text through, “otherwise we might have saved the Doha Round but we might have killed the organization.”
“We are sitting around waiting while others are negotiating,” another complained.
A third (a member of the G-20 group) said it had no objections to small group meetings, but the small groups should brief the rest on what are the key issues and the main differences. The G-20 group of developing countries was briefed properly by Brazil and India (both members of the group), but many countries are not members of any group and were not briefed at all, this delegation said.
Some countries said there is little to be gained from saying much at this stage. Rather the agriculture facilitator needs support to produce a new text, this country urged.
On content, G-10 members said they could not accept a framework that envisages caps (or ceilings) on tariffs, mandatory expansion of tariff quotas, and strict limits on sensitive products that would be allowed more flexible treatment.
Members of the G-33 group, repeated their insistence that developing countries be allowed the freedom to choose which products are “special” (and exempt from tariff reductions), that a special safeguard mechanism be created for developing countries, and that other forms of special and differential treatment be given to them, particularly if they are small and vulnerable. At least one country (Paraguay) said the best way to strengthen smaller countries is not to protect domestic markets but to allow them to export.
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Amb.Groser said he would complete his new draft on Thursday 29 July and give it to Amb.Oshima. It will then be incorporated into the full package, circulated to members and a meeting of heads of delegations will be held to discuss the text.
General Council chairperson Shotaro Oshima (Japan)
Agriculture facilitator: Ambassador Tim Groser (New Zealand), who chairs the agriculture negotiations