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.
In what has become his daily
report to the informal Trade Negotiations Committee, Mr Lamy said
the previous day’s “Green
Room” meeting had gone through the draft agriculture and
non-agricultural market access
He described the consultations as constructive with a strong commitment from delegations to engage directly and in good faith. “However, I must emphasize that the progress has been modest,” he said.
Because the progress has been uneven, Mr Lamy said smaller groups of delegations would discuss a series of agriculture and industrial products topics, the participants varying according to the subject, and involving three key ambassadors: agriculture negotiations chairperson Crawford Falconer, non-agricultural market access talks chairperson Don Stephenson and General Council chairperson Bruce Gosper. He described these arrangements as “variable geometry”.
In addition, Mr Lamy said Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre had agreed to coordinate discussion on three intellectual property issues: the multilateral register for wines’ and spirits’ geographical indications, extending higher level geographical indications protection beyond wines and spirits, and proposals to require patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic material and traditional knowledge — formally the relationship between the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
As a result of this, the services “signalling conference” originally scheduled for Thursday 24 July, will now take place the following day.
Asked in a press conference later whether the new schedule will also delay the circulation of revised agriculture and industrial products texts, WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell replied: “I would not advise you to hold your breath for those texts on Friday.”
In earlier meetings, several members urged Mr Lamy to ensure that
information about the consultations is shared fully and that all members
can have a say in the outcome.
Mr Lamy repeated his assurance that the Green Room consultations involve representatives of the full spectrum of members’ views and interests because they include coordinators of regional groups and other coalitions.
“Let me stress that in this process I am counting heavily on coordinators of the various WTO groupings to assist in maintaining transparency and inclusiveness,” he said. “I know that group coordinators face a big burden, but I do ask that you continue to ensure the flow of information and maintain consultations with your constituencies from small consultations so that they are kept informed and involved, as well as to convey your groups’ positions to other members, the negotiating group chairs, and myself.”
In the end, decisions can only be taken by the membership as a whole, he repeated.
(See also unofficial guide to the 10 July 2008 draft, available
Mr Lamy said the focus in the discussions on agriculture was on: overall trade-distorting domestic support for developed countries, including the new US offer to lower its proposed limit to $15bn, which was seen as a positive step; cotton; top-tier tariff cuts for developed countries; sensitive products, particularly how many products, the size of tariff quotas opened in return for these products having smaller than normal tariff cuts, and whether products currently without tariff quotas can be designated as sensitive (sometimes misleadingly termed “no new tariff quotas”); whether any of developing countries’ special products can completely escape tariff cuts; and whether temporary increases in developing country tariffs — the “special safeguard mechanism” to deal with import surges or price slumps — can raise tariffs above the legally bound maximums in place before the Doha Round.
(See also “the
July 2008 NAMA modalities text made simple”)
Mr Lamy said members had mostly restated their well-known positions on the formula and flexibilities but they were willing to engage seriously. They differed markedly on the anti-concentration clause (a proposal to prevent an entire sector from being shielded from cuts), he reported. And members differed in how much emphasis they gave to “sectorals” (free or freer trade in a sector), all recognizing that these would be voluntary.
Mr Lamy said he recognized that other issues in both subjects are also
important. But they are being discussed with the chairs of the
negotiating groups and therefore he did not think it would be efficient
to focus on them now.
On agriculture, the list includes: preferences, tropical products, in-quota rates, tariff simplification, tariff capping, and export competition. On industrial products it also includes preferences. And more broadly issues concerning small and vulnerable economies, and duty-free quota-free market access for exports from least-developed countries.
Today’s speakers were: India, the informal group of developing countries
(Sri Lanka speaking), Nicaragua, Paraguay, Switzerland, Lesotho, the
Texts of some of the statements — those supplied by delegations for publication on the website — can be found here.
On the first day, Director-General Pascal Lamy compared the ministers’ task to climbing Mont Blanc (which is in France and Italy). Delegations picked up the theme in their statements and the peaks challenging WTO negotiators ranged from Mount Fuji in Japan to Huascarán in Peru. En route was Mt Everest, with New Zealand pointing out that the world’s highest peak was conquered by two countries sitting next to each other in the Trade Negotiations Committee: New Zealand and Nepal. On 23 July, Lesotho observed that Lesotho is the Switzerland of Africa and therefore Switzerland must be the Lesotho of Europe. Mr Lamy suggested Switzerland might relish the opportunity to claim the use of special products, the special safeguard mechanism and other flexibilities to be given to developing and least-developed countries.
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