WTO: 2008 NEWS ITEMS

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To:

Participants in the Negotiations

Date:

14/07/08

From:

H.E. Guillermo Valles Galmés
Chairman, Negotiating Group on Rules


Over the past few weeks, as we approach a crucial period in the DDA negotiations, I have reflected on how best to synchronize the Rules negotiations with advances in other areas of the negotiations. Taking into account the circulation today by Ambassadors Falconer and Stephenson of revised texts on Agriculture and NAMA, which marks a further step towards the goal of achieving modalities in Agriculture and NAMA by the end of this month, I think it is an appropriate time to convey to you all, in a clear and transparent manner, my views as to how the Rules negotiations should proceed in the period after modalities have been achieved.

Let me first speak to anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies. When I issued my texts in November last year, I emphasized that those texts were Chair's drafts intended to provoke discussion on the broad parameters of possible outcomes to the negotiations; that they were technical papers not submitted for approval in whole or in part; and lastly that I would circulate revised draft texts as soon as I had a sufficient basis to do so. I intend to release draft texts in these areas as soon as possible after modalities are achieved. With respect to the nature of these coming texts, it is clear to me that we need to move from the Chair's texts to Draft texts which will have to describe a gradually emerging consensus. This is for the following reasons. First, few if any delegations believe that my first Chair's texts struck a proper balance. Second, little if any progress has been made since I tabled those texts to find an alternative balance around which Members could converge. Third, it seems to me that Members at this stage would prefer that I pursue a bottom-up approach and that I adequately reflect the actual negotiations among Members. I should therefore start providing draft legal language in those areas where we could find consensus and in areas where convergence could be potentially achieved. This is the only way to provide all delegations with the assurances they need that their positions are not prejudiced by revised texts. Thus, it should not be expected that my new texts will offer any magic solutions in the many areas where Members' positions differ dramatically and where the alternatives remain as delegations originally tabled them, i.e., very far apart.

With respect to fisheries subsidies, the situation is more complex and the problem is of a different nature. While progress on fisheries subsidies is of course no less urgent or important than that on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies, in this area we have no pre-existing GATT/WTO agreements to which we can revert and the differences among delegations go to the very concepts and structure of the rules. Here, we are faced with fundamental challenges, including how we can develop rules that are effective in disciplining subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing, while formulating special and differential treatment that addresses the very real concerns of developing Members with respect to development priorities, poverty reduction, and livelihood and food security concerns, including for millions of small fishers. These legitimate concerns can only be heightened by the current crisis of surging food prices. I believe that further discussion is necessary to provide the essential input I require for a forthcoming revision of my text on fisheries subsidies that could meet these two important objectives. As a tool to facilitate those discussions, I expect to table a specific “road map” (i.e. a paper identifying the key questions we need to address in order to reconcile the approaches). I will do this at the same time as I circulate revised texts on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies, as it is important that all areas of our mandate continue to move forward together.

In terms of our work programme, I intend to convoke a series of very intensive meetings starting in early September. I would expect to begin with a two-week session on fisheries subsidies, in order to gain the input mentioned above, before turning later in the month to anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies. Thereafter we will need to meet on a regular and in fact nearly continuous basis throughout the fall as we seek to develop the basis for further revised texts. This is in my view the best way to ensure that we will have Rules texts reflecting the greatest convergence possible for inclusion in the final comprehensive package of results for the Round whenever required. In my Report to the Trade Negotiations Committee at the end of this month I will provide all necessary precision concerning the timing and organization of our intensive work after the summer break.

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