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MOORE TO VISIT BRUSSELS AND WASHINGTON

by Chakravarthi Raghavan


Geneva, 14 Jan 2000 -- The Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Mr. Mike Moore, is visiting Brussels and Washington next week to discuss respectively with EC Commissioner Pascal Lamy and the US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, the post-Seattle situation facing the WTO.

After Brussels, Moore is also to meet the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York, before going to Washington to meet Mrs. Barshefsky.

Moore who had gone to New Zealand, over the year-end holidays, on his way back visited India where he addressed the Confederation of Indian Industry and met with the Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Murasoli Maran.

The WTO head had wanted to visit India even before Seattle to canvass New Delhi to support a new WTO round, but that visit could not be scheduled then. And on his way back to Geneva from New Zealand he visited India to address the CII meeting, and discussed with Maran the post-Seatle situation.

Maran at the CII meeting had taken a strong stand against the WTO becoming involved in non-trade issues, and in particular against moves to bring labour standards into the WTO.

Moore told the media in New Delhi that Maran had conveyed India's very strong views and position on the "social issues" and he would convey this to the developed countries.

The WTO head also said that it was not a question of whether there would be a new round, but when, and that it was the developing countries and the least developed that had 'lost' at Seattle.

In terms of the "built-in agenda", negotiations in agriculture and services are to start in 2000, but few diplomats believe that there will be anything more than a technical start.

In some private conversations, Third World negotiators say, the EC has indicated that it would make no more concessions or move further on the agricultural reforms (reductions in export subsidies, domestic support, tariff reduction etc) until and unless it gets a "massive market access in major developing countries" through investment liberalisation, and that a new round with the investment issue has to be launched for this.

However, according to several trade diplomats at Geneva, they do not see any moves on any new round until after the US presidential elections this year, and a new administration takes over in Washington next year. Until then, the US administration would not want any of these issues to come up and intrude into the electoral politics.

Some of the leading Cairns group members who have bought this EC argument for a new round with investment issues, but are mindful of the US situation, seem therefore to be reconciled to the negotiations on agriculture being kept on a low key and at technical levels, while seeking to get the WTO process going by pushing for "sectoral" negotiations in services.

But since, other developing countries have even less to gain from this, it is difficult to see how the WTO can move forward.

And any effort to bring up investment rules, and secure "massive" market-opening investment opportunities for European and Japanese TNCs may merely help stoke the anti-WTO campaigns.

Meanwhile, after an EC-Japan Ministerial meeting in Brussels last week, the two issued a joint statement that an early launch of a new round of negotiations should remain the priority of the WTO, and that the agenda for the new round should be sufficiently comprehensive to include not only the built-in agenda (agriculture and services) and market access, but also the improvements and reinforcement of existing rules and disciplines such as anti-dumping, as well as the establishment of additional rules for investment, competition and trade facilitation.

The EC and Japan statement also said that the two sides intend to continue cooperation so that the new round will pay due regard to non-trade concerns such as the sustainable use of exhaustible natural resources and environmental aspects.

EC and Japan also said that they continue to support the establishment of a dialogue on trade, globalisation and labour issues, with a view to promote a better understanding of the issues between all interested parties.

The WTO General Council which met on 17 December, and had on its agenda an item "Followup to the Seattle Conference" did not take up this item, and the meeting was adjourned with an announcement by the chair that the item would be taken up at a meeting in the new year, and that there would be prior consultations including over questions raised by members on provisions (of the WTO agreements) that lapse and deadlines that expire on 31 December.

The next meeting is yet to be announced, but is expected to be held in the first week of February.

But more than a month after the Seattle meeting, the WTO secretariat has still not produced any summary record, even a draft, of the meetings there, trade diplomats say.

However, there is a record of sorts about the opening of that Seattle meeting and the plenary meetings where ministers and observers spoke, but none of the final meeting on the night of 3 December - and about which there are some sharp challenges, including by the Minister of Guyana who was at the final Committee of the Whole and the plenary, as to whether the meeting officially 'suspended' or it was just a statement of the USTR Mrs. Barshefsky without any official value.

The public proceedings of the opening of the Seattle meeting (on the afternoon of 30 Nov) can be found at the official WTO website, in the form of a live webcast (archived, in principle, to be available for three months). This suggests that the meeting, if it began, did so did not follow the rules and procedures - whether in being called to order, or the adoption of the agenda and order of business etc.

The website address of the live cast is:

<www.wto.org/wto/seattle/english/ibs_e/30pm.htm>

The following is a transcript of that opening -- downloaded, recorded, and transcribed by Third World Network. There is no webcast of the closing plenary on the night of 3 December.

Mr. Mike Moore:

"I pass on the regrets of Amb. Barshefsky. She is the chairperson of the conference. She is on the way. But she asked me if I would mind calling the meeting to order - she will be here shortly. It is my privilege to do so and to say how much I regret that this morning's opening ceremony could not be held as scheduled.

"But we had a successful working lunch with Ministers.

"The plenary session, as you can see, has started as scheduled, and the negotiating groups are in full swing. This conference will be a success; indeed it is doomed to succeed.

"And while we have many people interested in what we do, I made the point at a press conference that this is a ministerial meeting. This is about ministers from governments sitting around a table and negotiating on behalf of their people. "And I will accept lots of criticisms about the WTO and how we can improve what we do. But one criticism I will not accept and that is that this House in some way is not democratic. There are ministers from all over the world assembled. There are ministers who are appointed by their presidents or elected by their parliaments. Ministers own this conference. It is for ministers to determine what happens, and what happened.

"It is disappointing that in Geneva we could not go much further. But that was because ministers decided so.

"Your ambassadors worked extremely hard, some worked too hard. They worked till 3 am in the morning Saturday and Sunday, based upon your guidance. I just make this point, on behalf of our chairperson, that this is about establishing the negotiation. This is about what we do in the next three years. This is not about concluding a complete deal here. It is about getting a balanced and fair outcome.

So, on behalf of the chairperson I now declare the 3rd ministerial conference of Seattle officially open (applause).

(Moore continues):

"Unfortunately, Abdul Razak Dawood, the Pakistani Minister and co-chair is unable to be with us at this moment. He will be here shortly. I will take the chair until he arrives.

[The live webcast video did not pan the meeting, and does not indicate whether any of the other two vice-chairs -- Mrs. Marta Lucia Ramirez De Rincon Minister of Foreign Trade of Colombia and Mr. Abdoul Kader CISSE, Minister of Trade, Industry and Handicrafts of Burkina Faso -- who could have taken the chair were present. Nor did Mr. Moore make any reference to them.

[Under Rule 13 of the rules of the Ministerial Conference, if the Chairperson is not present, one of the three vice-chairpersons shall perform the function of the chairperson. If no vice-chairperson is present, the Ministerial conference shall elect an interim Chairperson for that meeting or that part of the Meeting. The webcast does not show that this was done or attempted, before Moore started off the meeting, and took over the chair.]

Moore (contd):

"On behalf of the deputy chair I propose that the agenda in WT/Min(99)/W/1 be adopted.

"That agenda is adopted.

"I now propose that the ministerial conference turn to the proposed order of business in WT/Min(99)/4/Rev2.

"This is agreed.

"I propose that the ministerial conference agree on the organization of work as outlined in the proposed order of business.

"That is agreed.

"I now have the privilege to invite my friend and friend, H.E.Amb. Ali Mchumo, the Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the WTO and chairman of the General Council to present the report of the General Council.

(applause)

Mr.Mchumo then took the floor, introduced the report and spoke. (SUNS4585)

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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