Agriculture negotiations chairperson Ambassador Crawford Falconer and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) chairperson Don Stephenson circulated their latest draft “modalities” on 8 February 2008.

The two documents are revisions of drafts previously circulated in July 2007 and are based on WTO member governments’ latest positions in the discussions since September, one of the most intensive periods of negotiations since the Doha Round talks began in 2001.

They are the chairs’ assessment of what might be agreed for the formulas for cutting tariffs and trade-distorting agricultural subsidies, and related provisions.

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The two papers were circulated at about the same time because members link the two subjects. Their release kicks off yet another intensive series of meetings. After a period of further discussion in the negotiating groups for each subject, members intend to move to a new phase where these and some other areas of the Doha Round can be negotiated in comparison with each other with the hope that agreement can be reached in the next few weeks or months.

Eventually members want to negotiate an acceptable balance between the depths of cuts (the “level of ambition”) in agricultural and non-agricultural tariffs and agricultural subsidies as well as the size of cuts that they desire in each area.

So the drafts are still not the final word. They put the possible areas of agreement on paper so that members can react and further revise the texts.

They are drawn from WTO member governments’ positions over several months of the negotiations. They are the negotiations’ chairpersons’ judgements of what governments might be able to agree — based on what members have proposed and debated in over seven years of negotiations and their responses to the chairs’ previous papers.

Therefore, these are not “proposals” from the New Zealand and Canadian ambassadors in the sense that “proposals” are normally understood. In other words, these are not the chairs’ opinions of what would be “good” for world agricultural and non-agricultural trade, but what might be accepted by all sides in the negotiations.

> Press release: Lamy welcomes revised agriculture and NAMA negotiating texts

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