TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (June04/9)

16 June 2004

Third World Network



On 13 June there was a meeting in Sao Paulo of the Trade Ministers of five major WTO members on agriculture issues, i.e. US, EU, Brazil, India and Australia.

After the meeting, officials from the two developing countries expressed optimism that the meeting went well, but were cautious in their expectations as to how the points of understanding would be translated into negotiating terms when the negotiations on agriculture resume in Geneva next week.

Below is a report of the Group of Five meeting.

With best wishes

Martin Khor






TWN Report by Martin Khor, Sao Paulo 14 June 2004

The meeting here on 13 June of Ministers of the “group of five” countries in WTO agriculture talks - United States, European Union, Brazil, India and Australia - concluded with officials from the two developing countries in a mood of guarded optimism.

There were some positive results and thus a basis for movement in various aspects of the agriculture negotiations, at least where talks among the five WTO members are concerned, when they resume next week in Geneva, according to the officials.

However, whether the other WTO members not included in the meeting of the five major members, will see the outcome of the G5 meeting as positively remains to be seen.

The meeting, held on 13 June afternoon on the sidelines of UNCTAD XI, lasted four hours and the five delegations were led by EC Trade Commisioner Pascal Lamy, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile.

The US and EU were willing to acknowledge and discuss the market access approach taken by the Group of 20, which in a paper had set out the elements that should be taken in the framework for modalities, said the officials. 

The developed countries’ Ministers were more amenable than they had been before to aspects on special and differential treatment, and they did not appear to insist anymore on including the Swiss formula (part of the EU-US blended approach to tariff reduction), the officials added.

However, whether and to what extent the EU and US will find the G20 approach to market access acceptable will have to be seen when the details are discussed in Geneva, said the officials.

Earlier, there had been apprehension that the G20 approach would be criticized for not being specific enough, for example that there was no specific formula in it.

On export competition, the EC gave the impression it acknowledged the need to eliminate export subsidies, but much more work would have to be done on the question of the final date for elimination.    The EC maintained its strategy of “parallelism” (that there should be commitment by other members on export credits, food aid and  state trading enterprises), but there was an impression that the extent and details of this could be worked out later, said the officials.

On domestic support, there was also discussion, and much more work would be required on details such as criteria for the blue box subsidies and disciplines on the Green Box, added the officials.

The meeting did not discuss issues other than agriculture.  However, Zoellick remarked that on non-agriculture market access, the Derbez text should be accepted as it is, otherwise many issues would crop up.  However, India and Brazil indicated that changes would need to be made to the text, and in any case were not prepared to enter a discussion on NAMA.

At a press conference after the meeting,  Amorin said the discussions had been very beneficial and we are moving in the right direction, but a lot more work needs to be done.

Kamal Nath said there appeared to be some convergence on market access, but the details would have to be worked out by the experts.

Lamy said the political direction was clear, and reaffirmed that for the EU, parallelism was essential.   Zoellick stressed the need for increased market access but also mentioned special and differential treatment.