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US and EU hold informals to review state of play to Cancun

Geneva, 3 Apr (Kanaga Raja) - The US and the European Union, separately, have both been holding some bilateral and plurilateral meetings with a range of countries here to review the state of play in the Doha multilateral trade negotiations, and explaining their expectations, positions and views on the 5th WTO ministerial in September at Cancun.

The US has met with about 28 countries. According to the EC Commission’s Peter Carl, they had met with some 30 delegations, to review the state of play and what in its view needs to be done to ensure success at Cancun, and conclusion of the round on schedule (end 2004).

The media briefings Wednesday by the deputy USTR Peter Allegier, and the EC top official in the trade directorate Peter Carl, who are here for the meetings of the Trade Negotiations Committee, in effect set out their positions outlined at the closed door informal TNC meetings.

At the moment, both are insisting that the round must be concluded by the target date, and in the areas where they are demandeurs they have not indicated any lowering of their level of ambitions.

Asked about the effect of the war on Iraq, Allegier said that it was obviously “one element in a very tense and uncertain international environment”, and part of that is the nervousness in the economic and financial sector, which has its own strains. From that standpoint, the US thought the urgency of completing a round of negotiations and an ambitious one should be more apparent to people.

The meetings with delegations, were aimed at “orienting people’s thinking and mindset,” and getting them to move on all fronts, rather than holding back. In Allgeier’s view, development remained at the center of the DDA, and market access issues at the core of the negotiations.

The deputy USTR elaborated on what the US expects to be achieved in Cancun.

On the Singapore issues, Allegier’s assessment was that there is quite a bit of support for “rather substantial negotiations after Cancun” on trade facilitation and government procurement, but “more reticence” on investment and competition policy. In the US view, “meaningful modalities” could be framed on these issues (at Cancun) to enable them to move forward in appropriate way on all those issues after Cancun.

At a separate briefing, Peter Carl of the EC Trade Directorate, set out the EU’s “shopping (or wish) list” on what the ministers should achieve in Cancun. In his view, there should be agreement on modalities in agriculture and non-agricultural products before Cancun.

The Singapore issues, he said, were becoming “more mainstream” and he was confident they were moving along nicely and “we will agree on modalities on these issues.”

On Geographical Indications of origin, there was no progress at all.

He also pointed to the “development issues”, including S&D where deadlines have been missed. The EU intended to work together with India and others to make sure that ministers at Cancun can agree on a significant number of economically important STD and implementation issues for adoption then and there and agree to put the other remaining issues in the mainstream of negotiations.

While the DSU reforms is not part of the single undertaking, the EC hoped that there would be agreement on a very substantial number of issues for reform of DSU by end of May. If no agreement was reached, then ministers at Cancun should make the decisions themselves.

On agriculture, Carl dismissed as “patently absurd” claims by the Cairns Group and others that it was the EU that was holding things up.

While the EU had decided to freeze its agricultural budget in October 2002, “another country located between Mexico and Canada” decided to go in the opposite direction to increase its farm budget by the same amount that the EU was reducing, and taking a number of steps that are tantamount to going in the direction of recoupling certain agriculture subsidies.

He questioned the objectives of the negotiating partners in the Cairns group and US, and said that a reading of what their farmers’ associations was saying, their main objective was not the EU market. “Our market is not the main target here. This is a ploy. We are being used as a decoy,” he argued. Their main objectives are the markets in a number of developing countries where protection is still high and which, according to their calculations, are potentially the biggest import markets in the years ahead.

Asked about the Uruguay Round or the Swiss formula for tariff cuts in agriculture, Carl said that the Swiss formula had been rejected by 74 members, who agreed with the EU against the extreme approach implied in the Swiss formula. The UR one left scope for national policymaking on countries concerned with livelihood of farmers, for example.

Many of the real objectives of the net-food exporters, he said, were the developing world markets and not at all in Europe. The way to move the negotiations forward in terms of market access was, in the first place, for people to come clean on where they want market access.

“Is it in Europe, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, or Malaysia. Or where is it? How far are those countries willing to go and what kind of formula would they like to look at?” – SUNS5318

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