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TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (July04/15)

25 July 2004

Third World Network

Next draft perhaps only on Wednesday; and discussions at General Council meeting will mostly be “informal”

Report of the WTO’s Heads of Delegation meeting of 23 July

 

An informal meeting of the heads of delegations (HOD) of the WTO was held in the late afternoon of Friday 23 July.  

The General Council chair announced that a revised draft of the “July package” would come out next week, possibly as late as Wednesday.  (The meeting begins on Tuesday). 

He also said the formal meeting of the General Council will be suspended after the other items on the agenda (i.e. the regular items not related to the July package) are completed on 27 July.  The implication is that most of the negotiations and discussions on the July package will take place in an “informal mode”. 

The meeting also saw a group of countries presenting amendments to the trade facilitation text, whilst another group stated that such changes are not needed.

Below is a report by Tetteh Hormeku on the HOD meeting.

With best wishes

Martin Khor

TWN

 

 

 

 

Next draft may appear only on Wednesday;  most discussions of the General Council meeting will be “informal”

Report of the WTO’s Heads of Delegation meeting of 23 July

 

 

An informal meeting of the heads of delegations (HOD) of the WTO was held in the late afternoon of Friday 23 July.

Highlights of the meeting included an announcement by the General Council chair that the next draft of the “July package” would come out next week, possibly as late as Wednesday;  that the formal meeting of the General Council would be suspended before the agenda item on the July package is discussed and thus most of the negotiations will take place in an “informal mode”.  The meeting also saw a group of countries presenting amendments to the trade facilitation text, whilst another group stated that such changes are not needed.

According to trade officials present at the HOD meeting, the General Council Chair,  Ambassador Oshima of Japan,  indicated at the meeting that the next draft of the July package would be presented no later than Wednesday next week and would represent the final major revision, which would then presented to the General Council meeting of 27-29 for a decision.  He added that opportunities for major changes to the text were getting limited as time is running out. He said that nevertheless the revised text should reflect a sense of shared ownership by all members.

Oshima also announced the format he proposed for the conduct of the General Council meeting.  He said the Council would meet for the first time on 27 July to discuss and take decisions on all other items of the agenda, including decisions on newly acceding countries.

Thereafter the General Council would be suspended to allow for further consultations on the draft of the July Package.  The Council would reconvene only after there is convergence among members on a decision on the July package.  There would meanwhile  be the continuation of intense consultations in different formats to try to arrive at convergence on the main items, with further meetings of the heads of delegations (HOD) being held as appropriate.  Indications are that there would be regular, probably daily, meetings of Heads of Delegations during the 27-29 July period.

The implication of this announcement is that most of the discussions and negotiations next week will not take place formally at the General Council, but informally in groupings (presumably including according to the issues).  It was not announced what kinds of informal meetings would be held, or who would be invited to what meetings.

Opening the meeting of the Heads of Delegation,  Amb. Oshima indicated that the on-going process is one of an intense exercise of consulations in a variety of formats in four areas covered in the July text: agriculture, NAMA, development and trade facilitation.  He asked members to refrain from lengthy discussions on well-known positions.  WTO Director-General Dr. Supachai added that this was the time for urgency and realism, stating that there was no time for the introduction of a multiplicity of texts which did not make for convergence on the main issues.  He warned that members should not approach the July text as a sort of Christmas tree on which to hang everything, or else there would be no Christmas for any body.

In relation to the main issues, Amb Oshima indicated that the consultations were beginning to show convergence for the way forward on NAMA (non agricultural market access) which he said would involve using Annex B (which is reproduced from the Derbez text) accompanied by a statement, a letter, or a similarly appropriate “vehicle” indicating the concerns raised by various members in relation to various issues in the annex. 

On development issues, he said that difficulties still remained on how to approach the question of preferences, which has turned out to be most sensitive point in this area.

On trade facilitation, the Chair suggested that everybody should be “on call” at all times as the consultations intensified. 

He further called on the facilitators to pick up on all the issues, and urged consultations on these issues to proceed as quickly as possible.

After the Chair’s statement, a number of countries stated specific positions in relation to the text. 

Speaking on the issue of cotton, the Ambassador of Benin compared the proposal in the current text to the situation a year ago, starting from the address to the General Council by President Compaore, and to the position of the G90 on treating cotton as a stand-alone issue.  He said that the four West African cotton producing countries were now prepared to take the cotton issue into the framework of agricultural negotiations, but provided that their concerns, including resolving the issue on a fast-track basis, were met (i.e. within the agriculture text).  He added that they have submitted a proposal to this effect and called on their trading  partners to respond appropriately.  He also called on the Chair to facilitate this process, adding that the ball was now in his court.

On trade facilitation, the HOD meeting received two statements or proposals, one from a group of countries led by Malaysia, and the second from another group of countries.

Malaysia stated that it had submitted proposals for changes to the Annex on modalities for trade facilitation, on behalf of itself and other countries, including India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Zambia.  The countries have proposed additional provisions or language on some issues, including:  the applicability of the dispute settlement mechanism; technical assistance and the financial needs of developing countries; exchange of information in cases of suspected wrong-doing, including cases of under-invoicing by companies;  and predicating implementation of any emerging agreement on the conclusion of long-standing discussions in the WTO on rules of origin.

Another group, including the US, Costa Rica, Pakistan, Hong Kong-China, presented a paper welcoming the willingness of members to start negotiations on trade facilitation, but also indicating that the concerns raised in the paper submitted by Malaysia (and others) had already been dealt with, thus implying that the current Annex on trade facilitation should not be amended.

In response to a question by Cuba seeking clarification on the precise status of the letter to accompany the NAMA text, the Chair responded that it was up to members to decide.

Croatia raised the issue of Geographical Indications and noted that as there had been no responses to its proposals on this matter from members indicating their rejection, they conclude there was consensus on their proposal.   They invited consultation with members that may hold contrary views.

Closing the HOD meeting, Ambassador Oshima stated that a number of Ministers would be arriving in Geneva to give political support to the work of the General Council.  However, he stated that no invitation has been made to any Minister by himself or the Director-General regarding ministerial participation in the meetings of the General Council.  He added that while the level of representation in the General Council was entirely the decision of members, the forthcoming meeting of the General Council was a regular meeting like any other.

 


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