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.
As members continued to examine this new “package” on Day Six of these
ministerial-level talks, a group of ministers participated in a
services signalling conference,
postponed from Thursday 24 July.
The new numbers are proposed compromises on a handful of major issues in
the agriculture and industrial products negotiations. They are the
result of discussions the previous day first among a group of seven
ministers and then the larger representative group of about 30 ministers
“The package will remain on the table as a contribution toward our work”
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy reported to members
in the informal Trade Negotiations Committee, where the full membership
can oversee the “concentric circles”
of small and large meetings.
“But as you will recognize, this is by no means the full picture of our
task. There remain many elements not in this package which are dear to
many of you and therefore need to be tackled urgently in order to find
the overall political balance. This is necessary because as I have said
to you, there is no such thing as partial modalities.”
“Modalities” is the term used to describe the blueprint agreements in
agriculture and non-agricultural market access, including formulas for
cutting tariffs and agricultural subsidies, which will then be applied
to individual products and support programmes.
The new figures include proposed compromises on key issues members have
been discussing over the past few days:
in agriculture: the US and EU cuts in overall trade-distorting
domestic support, cuts in developed countries’ highest tariffs; maximum
tariffs for developed countries’ non-sensitive products, how many
sensitive products (which would be shielded from the full force of
tariff cuts) and the size of quotas with lower tariffs for these
products; developing countries’ special products (which would also be
shielded from tariff cuts but without quotas), including how many, the
size of the cuts and whether some would escape cuts completely; the new
special safeguard mechanism for developing countries (temporary
increases in tariffs to deal with import surges or price falls),
including whether in some cases the raised tariff could go above present
legally bound maximums; whether the present special safeguard should be
in non-agricultural market access: the tariff-cutting formula and
variations (or “flexibilities”) for developing countries; provisions
that would prevent entire sectors from being shielded from tariff cuts;
and wording on provisions for free or freer trade in entire sectors.
While members consider these proposals, chairs of the agriculture and
non-agricultural market access talks will hold more technical
consultations on a number of remaining issues, which members will turn
“The next step in our consultative process therefore is to address these
other issues,” Mr Lamy said.
He listed as examples, in agriculture: cotton, preference erosion (the
weakening of the advantage that preferential tariffs give when general
tariffs are lowered), tropical products, bound in-quota tariffs (legally
bound limits on tariffs for quantities within quotas), tariff
simplification (particularly converting most if not all tariffs to
simple percentages of the price), developing country sensitive products.
For industrial products, the issues include preference erosion, issues
concerning countries that recently joined the WTO and have introduced
reforms as part of the membership agreements, and provisions for
Venezuela, which wants to be treated as a small and vulnerable economy —
meaning its tariffs would be bound at an average level — because its
imports are concentrated among a small number of products, which in turn
has implications on it applying the same tariff cutting treatment as
larger developing countries.
Mr Lamy said he would report on further consultations when the full
membership meet again on Monday 28 July.
As before, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre reported on his
consultations, which he described as constructive
but still insufficient to allow him to present specific proposals.
He said he had continued to explore possible ways forward, taking into
account members’ various concerns and the fact that their views are
“diametrically opposed” on some key issues. He said he is aiming for a
solution that takes account of differences on questions such as whether
negotiations on these subjects would be part of the Doha Round “single
undertaking” and the legal form of the outcome.
His consultations are 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
All of the speakers — about 30 — either said the new package should be
accepted, however painful some parts of it might be, or that it was an
acceptable starting point for further negotiation.
Some chose to focus only on the proposals’ importance. One delegation
said that it is disturbed by some aspects of the package but even more
disturbed by the prospect that attempts to change it might destroy it.
“If we make the wrong decision now, we would fail. Period,” this
delegation said. Another warned that attempts to alter the
carefully-balanced package would be “playing with fire.”
However some had more serious reservations, ranging from problems with
individual parts of the package to complaints that the agriculture and
non-agricultural proposals are unbalanced.
One of the issues raised most was the new special safeguard mechanism
for developing countries, particularly when this raises tariffs above
pre-Doha Round (or Uruguay Round) legally bound maximums.
In today’s meeting, the debate was between two groups of developing
countries, one group arguing for the need to protect their poor farmers,
another arguing that their poor farmers need to export to other
The first group said the conditions are too tight — to exceed the
pre-Doha round ceilings would require an import surge of 40% more than a
base level, and the size of the tariff increase would be limited to 15%
of the tariff or 15 percentage points above the tariff, whichever is
greater. Some other developing countries took the opposite view — that
the package should be accepted because they have accepted it despite
opposing tariffs rising above the carefully negotiated Uruguay Round
maximums at all.
Today’s speakers in the informal Trade Negotiations Committee were:
India, the informal group of developing countries (Sri Lanka speaking),
the least-developed countries (Lesotho speaking), Costa Rica, the US,
Argentina, the African Group (Kenya speaking), the
African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) group (Mauritius speaking), Hong Kong
China, Venezuela, Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Egypt,
Turkey, Chinese Taipei, South Africa, small and vulnerable economies
(Dominican Rep speaking), Switzerland, Bolivia, China, the Philippines,
Paraguay, Rep Korea, Colombia, Cuba, Uruguay, the EU.
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
Highlights of remarks by Chair
Remarks by Chair in full
> Problems viewing this page?
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org giving details of the operating system and web browser you are using.