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.
> 26 July
The fifth day of these ministerial-level negotiations began as usual
with Mr Lamy’s daily report to the full membership in the informal Trade Negotiations Committee.
“This is the blunt reality,” he said. “The situation as I see it is
critical, edging between success and failure.”
An outcome that would benefit all countries is within delegations’
grasp, he said, but to achieve that countries will have to consider
moving their positions on some issues they have been describing as
impossible to change — their “red lines”.
“You will all have to give hard thought to your red lines, not in a
week, not in a month, but in the next hours,” he said.
Mr Lamy said he had responded to the
previous day’s comments by
adjusting the way the negotiations are organized. The negotiations on 24
July included meetings of the seven ministers and of the larger
representative group (the so-called
Green Room meetings
of about 30 ministers). These meetings will continue to follow the
well-known “concentric circles”
structure with the full membership having the final say, he said.
While some delegations continued to express concerns about the way the
talks are organized, others said the blockage is not caused by the
process but by content of the talks — the “hardened red lines” as one
speaker put it.
Some called for Mr Lamy to draft a compromise text for negotiators to
use, some others opposed this.
Mr Lamy assured members that there will be no surprises either in the
way the talks are organized or in the content. A new “surprise” text
will not help convergence, he said, only the members can narrow the
All members will have a chance to tackle specific issues that concern
them, Mr Lamy concluded. “I heard you, and you will have some time.” But
time is also running short, he said.
Agriculture and non-agricutlure
Mr Lamy reported briefly on the previous day’s negotiations. (For
explanations see: unofficial guide to the 10 July 2008 agriculture
here, and “the July
2008 NAMA modalities text made simple”)
Agriculture: members agreed to work within the ranges of numbers in the
draft modalities text but with serious
differences between the low and high ends of many of these ranges. On
the limits on overall trade distorting domestic support for the EU and
US “we are not there yet”, and the outcome on cotton also depends on
this. There is convergence on a 70% cut in the highest (“top tier”)
agricultural tariffs for developed countries, he said, but not on
tariffs ending up higher than 100% (the present drafts envisages some
kind of cap on tariffs at 100%, with some exceptions).
There was some convergence on the number of products that could be
designated as sensitive (and shielded from the full cut of the tariff
formula provided some access at a lower tariff is allowed within a
tariff quota). But, he went on, members remain divided on the size of
the tariff quota, which will be a percentage of domestic consumption.
And, he said, there was limited discussion on whether a member could
call a product “sensitive” if it did not already have a tariff quota on
that product (often misleadingly described as the question of creating
“new tariff quotas”).
Members are “not there yet” on the number of special products developing
countries can identify and shield from the tariff cutting formula and on
the question of whether any of these could totally escape cuts, Mr Lamy
reported. But on developing countries’ right to temporarily increase
tariffs to deal with import surges or price slumps — the new “special
safeguard mechanism” — some ideas were floated and these are being
discussed in consultations with agriculture negotiations chairperson
Crawford Falconer, he said. Members also showed signs of flexibility on
the present “special safeguard” (which all members can use and some want
to be scrapped).
Non-agricultural (industrial goods) market access (NAMA): Mr Lamy
reported limited progress in narrowing the ranges of numbers in the
formula and related flexibilities. On the anti-concentration clause (a
proposal to prevent an entire sector from being shielded from cuts),
members discussed possible references to the numbers of products
countries have defined for customs purposes (the “national tariff
lines”) and the value of trade, and the possibility of excluding sectors
that only have a small number of products. On “sectorals” (free or freer
trade in a sector), members discussed wording designed to ensure this is
voluntary and at the same time workable.
Industrial goods chairperson Don Stephenson has also been consulting
members on provisions for preferences, for small and vulnerable
economies and for Venezuela.
Intellectual property: Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to
report on his consultations on three intellectual property issues: the
multilateral register for wines’ and spirits’ geographical indications
(GIs), extending higher level geographical indications protection beyond
wines and spirits (“GI extension”), and proposals to require patent
applicants to disclose the origin of genetic material and traditional
knowledge (“disclosure”) — formally the relationship between the WTO
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement
and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). (See explanations
Mr Støre reported that he had consulted a number of delegations,
including some who asked to meet him. He said it was clear that these
issues depend on what happens in other subjects. On the multilateral
register, the main difference is in the technical question of the
register’s legal effect, he said. On the extension of higher-level
geographical indications protection, the difference is over the main
substance of the issue, he reported, whereas on the “disclosure”
question members recognize the underlying concerns.
Mr Lamy said both the
services signalling conference and the formal Trade Negotiations Committee will probably have to be
postponed. And he told delegations to standby in case another informal
meeting is called at short notice.
In a press conference afterwards, WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell said
the seven ministers would resume talks at about midday and this could be
followed by a meeting of the larger “Green Room”. Asked whether the
talks could continue into the following week, Mr Rockwell said ministers
have indicated they would be willing to do so if progress is made today.
He confirmed that the discussions include proposed compromise numbers,
which Mr Lamy and the negotiating group chairs have been suggesting to
test whether members might accept them.
Today’s speakers in the informal Trade Negotiations Committee were:
Colombia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar,
Switzerland, Cuba, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, Pakistan, Chile, and
Texts of some of the statements — those supplied by delegations for
publication on the website — can be found
remarks by Chair and report by Jonas Gahr Store
remarks by Chair
Press Conference: Mr. Keith Rockwell, WTO Spokesman
of remarks by Chair
by Chair in full
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