WTO: 2006 NEWS ITEMS
WTO NEWS — DDA JUNE/JULY 2006 MODALITIES: SUMMARY 1 JULY
Ministers have failed to narrow their differences on the “modalities” or template agreements that are needed to compile detailed cuts in tariffs and agricultural subsidies, and members have asked Director-General Pascal Lamy to try to broker a compromise “as soon as possible”. Members also shared his assessment that the negotiations are now in crisis.
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.
A formal meeting on 1 July 2006 of the Trade Negotiations Committee,
which comprises the entire WTO membership, brought to an end about three
days of discussions among a representative group of ministers. No
progress was made in trying to narrow the gaps on formulas for reducing
tariffs and subsidies, various flexibilities, and other disciplines that
would be in the “modalities”.
Members agreed that Mr Lamy should consult members intensively and widely in order to establish “modalities” urgently — the term several used was to “facilitate” and act as a “catalyst”. He agreed with them that members will remain the main actors, and the principles will continue to be “bottom-up” (input coming from members rather than from above), transparent and include all members. The consultations will be based on the draft texts in agriculture and non-agricultural market access. The director-general will report back to the members as soon as possible.
In statements, members said they remain committed to completing the negotiations by the end of the year.
The “modalities” are needed so that countries can list their new commitments to reduce tariffs on thousands of products and to cut farm subsidies. The lists will be in documents known as “schedules” that will run to several hundred pages per country and to tens of thousands of pages for the whole membership. These lists will take several months for each member to compile and in each case for other members to examine and possibly negotiate.
“I will not beat about the bush,” Mr Lamy told delegates in an informal
meeting that immediately preceded the formal meeting. “We are now in a
crisis. We are far from the necessary convergence to be able to
establish modalities in agriculture and NAMA [non-agricultural market
access], despite all the hard work put in by everyone.”
He reported that he had continued consultations since the informal meeting on 30 June with delegations, coalitions and the group of six key players known as the G-6 (Australia, Brazil, the EU, India, Japan and the US).
“However, the fear that I expressed for you yesterday — that a real negotiation might not take place — seems to be the reality facing us. This is serious, not only for the agriculture and industrial tariffs, but also obviously for the round as a whole if we want to conclude it by the end of this year.”
The news was not all bad. Mr Lamy said he had witnessed no acrimony in his consultations. And “no one … appears to want to throw in the towel. Everyone is still committed to finishing the round this year. Everybody agrees with this deadline. So the question now facing us is how we deal with the situation.”
Shuttle diplomacy, high level contacts, use of modern communications and testing numbers lie ahead for the director-general, he told a press conference afterwards. The gaps are not unbridgeable and there is no panic despite the crisis, he said.
Asked about timing, Mr Lamy said he had just received the mandate and would reflect on how to proceed. “I’m in a hurry and if the G-6 members are also in a hurry, so much the better,” he told journalists.
Asked whether he will produce a draft text, he replied that there is enough text on the table — what is needed is numbers.
In the informal and formal meeting, members supported the proposal for
the director-general to mediate, some stressing that the process should
be “bottom-up”, transparent, inclusive and based on the chairs’ drafts.
Some emphasized the need for major players, particularly the G-6 to show leadership by moving towards consensus first. Several said they had come to Geneva ready to negotiate and were disappointed that major players did not move.
Others stressed their view that the consultations should not focus only on the G-6, and that all major issues should be covered, not only the “triangle” of market access and domestic support in agriculture and industrial market access.
Many countries stressed the issues that concern them most, from the desire for an ambitious outcome, to an agreement that contains flexibility for the vulnerable. Either way, these members said their objectives were for “development”.
One developing country blamed the deadlock partly on divergent views about the meaning of “development” itself. Some see trade as causing factories to close and workers to lose jobs, while others see it as the engine of growth, this country observed.
Some argued that despite the continuing deadlock, the differences are narrow enough for agreement to be within reach.
“First, that in view of the crisis in the negotiations, the TNC [i.e. the Trade Negotiations Committee] request me [i.e. the director-general] to conduct intensive and wide-ranging consultations with the aim of facilitating the urgent establishment of modalities in agriculture and NAMA [non-agricultural market access];
“Second, that my consultations should be based on the draft texts prepared by the chairs of the negotiating groups; and
“Third, that I should report to you, the TNC, as soon as possible.”
The TNC agreed.