TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (July04/16)

27 July 2004

Third World Network



Update on expected process at WTO General Council meeting

By Tetteh Hormeku (TWN Africa):   Geneva, 27 July 2004


WTO officials at a media briefing on Monday 26 July indicated that after the General Council suspends sitting on Tuesday morning, it will reconvene late on Friday to formally take a decision on the July package.  In between, there will be informal meetings.  A revised version of the draft text of the July package is to be made available on Wednesday, and between then and the time the General Council reconvenes, there will be a series of consultations among delegates to deal with persisting divergencies among delegates in the four issues covered by the text.

According to the officials, that revised text is expected to constitute the last major revision. This is not to say that new language on particular elements of the text would not continue to be formulated in the course of the negotiations that would follow the release of the revised text. It is expected that at the general council meeting all members will be presented with a composite text of the July package as amended from the first version (dated 16 July). 

According to the officials, facilitators and chairmen of the negotiating groups have held consultations with delegates at the week-end over the four areas - agriculture, NAMA, Singapore Issues, and development.  By their account, Agriculture still remains the most difficult so far in the four issues, with hardly any movement on differences among the delegates.

In NAMA, the debate still revolves around the appropriate “vehicle” through which to capture the differences among delegates and their concerns over the Derbez text which is proposed in the draft July package as the basis of the NAMA negotitations. 

In relation to the development, there seems to have emerged a compromise formulation which seems acceptable to countries from Latin America, on the one hand, and Africa and Asia on the other,  on the issue of small, vulnerable countries.

Journalists were also informed that a number of Ministers have already arrived in Geneva, although the secretariat does not have a complete list of who has arrived and will arrive.  Two of the ministers who are in Geneva have had separate meetings with Director-General of the WTO on Monday; they are Kamal Nath of India, and Cuttaree of Mauritius.

In his meeting with the D-G, Kamal Nath discussed the question of the fate of the millions of India’s subsistence farmers and the means by which their problems can be addressed in the agriculture negotiations, said the officials. 

They added that Cuttarree discussed in general the issues raised at the Mauritius meeting of the G90.  He also raised the issue of the impending phasing out of the Multi-Fibre Agreement due to the final implementation of obligations under the Agreement on Textiles, and the implication of this for prefernce-dependend textile exporting countries.  Cuttaree requested that the Director-General convene a special meeting of WTO members to discuss this issue. 

However, while expressing understanding of the issue raised by Cuttaree, the DG indicated that he would instead hold consultations with members over this, probably on Monday or Tuesday next week.

The officials said that this was a sensitive issue as there are equal numbers of countries with different if not opposite interests and positions on the issue of the phasing out of the MFA and its implications