TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (July04/22)

29 July 2004

Third World Network

Members at HOD meeting impatient with lateness of revised draft 

By Tetteh Hormeku, Geneva, 28 July 2004


An informal meeting of the heads of delegation (HOD) at the WTO saw several member countries complaining about the process, especially that most of the members are being kept waiting whilst a few countries discuss agriculture among themselves, and that the revised draft text has been so delayed.

The HOD meeting was held on the late morning of Wednesday 28 July.

A cross section of WTO delegates stressed the importance of a timely release of the revised draft of the July, adding that while they were prepared to wait for another half day to allow further work in preparing the text, their patience was not unlimited.  Many delegations stated that while they were prepared to allow certain major countries and groupings to continue consultations on key issues such as agriculture, it was important to recognize that convergence among such countries cannot be the only consideration, pointing out there were 140 other members of the WTO (outside the group of five) who were interested in the developments on the July package.  

The sentiments came from across the broad spectrum of the WTO membership, including Jamaica, Zambia, Canada, Switzerland, Morocco, Pakistan, and EU among others.  Some of the delegations pointed out that they would have to consult their capitals for guidance on the decisions on a revised text, and for some countries like Jamaica, that may require a cabinet discussion.

Opening the meeting, GC Chair, Amb. Oshima stated that work was continuing on individual sections of the draft text, adding that there was progress in several areas.  He said that he was working in close touch with the facilitators and that they would be in a position to come out with a revised text as soon as possible, either late Wednesday or early Thursday.  He emphasized that the in view of the limited time available, the text that would come out would be the final major revision.  Following the release of the text, Amb.  Oshima would convene a meeting of the HOD to discuss the text.

Ambassador Oshima called on all the facilitators to pay attention to the need for  transparency and inclusiveness, in order that the text that would emerge, would, as far as is possible, reflect a sense of ownership by all members.

The chairs of the various working groups then reported on the state of progress in the various areas covered in the July text.  On agriculture, Tim Grosser reported that progress was still tied up in consultations.  He indicated that in a number of key areas, he had not received detailed enough political guidance from the consultations to enable him make progress.  He said that while the issues of difficulty are of interest to all members, agreement over these issues among a smaller group was important for the way forward.  He was thus continuing his consultations and to take account of the signals coming from these consultations as well as other indicators in order to prepare a draft for submission to the DG in the evening.

In relation to NAMA, the chair Amb. Johanneson reported that the sticking point still remained the question of the appropriate “vehicle” with which to convey the concerns and disagreements of members over the Derbez text.  He reported that his consultations have come out with varying degrees of disappointment among members over the Annex B, with some stating that it was too ambitious, while other thought it too limited.  Consensus so far is proving illusory.  Amb Johanesson further reported that he had submitted a text on Friday for the vehicle, but this met with mixed response from delegates, and did not raise the comfort level for the delegates who were concerned with Annex B.  He indicated that a revised text, “dubbed a smart text” - was made available yesterday, and exchanges were ongoing over this.  He hoped to discover enough convergence by end of the day.

On trade facilitation, deputy Directror General Xerca said there has been extensive consultation and that though these have been productive, they were not conclusive.  He stated however that members were within striking distance of solving all the outstanding issues.  At the same time, he cautioned that as any one watching David Beckham at the Euro 2004 would have noticed, it was still possible to miss from a striking distance.

On development issues, it was reported by Amb. Faisal of South Africa there seem to have emerged a basis for bridging the division among developing countries on how to deal with the problems of small and vulnerable economies.  While the solution was not necessarily ideal to either side, each side was prepared to put the greater question of unity among developing countries to the fore.

A number of countries raised concerns with the negotiations.  Brazil, in a statement that was echoed by many other developing countries including Benin, and India, referred to the issue of implementation and requested that the DG organized a consultation to consider the proposals they had put forward for meaningful progress on these issues.  Bulgaria and EU, from the other side, also supported the question of increased attention to implementation issues, but from the perspective of extending the reach of GI’s beyond wines.

In a further discussion of the issue of development, the African and Caribbean groups pointed out that the progress so far in a compromise language on development should not detract from the importance of balance in other areas of the agreement.  Nothing was agreed until everything was agreed, and that for them consensus on development was contingent on satisfactory progress on other areas.  A number of Latin American  countries pointed to need to maintain the fine balance arrived so far, and avoid the risk of unravelling what has been painstakingly attained.