TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (July04/24)

29 July 2004

Third World Network

Members express frustration at being left out, as Groser indicates movement in agriculture talks among the FIPs

By Goh Chien Yen, Geneva 29 July 2004


The palpable frustration of many countries at being left out or kept in the dark about the agriculture negotiations which were being conducted by the “five interested parties” was made known during an informal heads of delegation (HOD) meeting on agriculture held on the night of Wednesday 28 July.

The release of the revised July framework text has been delayed and is anticipated to be out only on Thursday to take into account the negotiations taking place in the US mission in Geneva between the FIPs or “five interested parties” (US, EU, Brazil, India, Australia).

At the HOD meeting, Amb. Groser (who is facilitator of the agriculture issue) indicated there was some movement arising from the FIPs meeting, saying he now has “sufficient political guidance” that would help him draft a new agriculture text.

Earlier in the day, at a press briefing, the President of Switzerland, Mr Joseph Deiss, had expressed his strong displeasure at how the Group of 10 countries had been left out of the agriculture talks, and warned that there was a “possibility of failure in the room.”    

Also, the Group of 33 (the 42-country alliance for special products (SP) and special safeguard mechanism (SSM) for developing countries) issued a statement, stating concern that some members continue to demand limitations be placed on the concepts of SP and SSM.  The G33 insisted that SP and SSM “must have a higher degree of clarity and specificity” in the eventual framework, and that the language on S and D treatment (including SP and SSM) must be appropriately enhanced.   (A separate Info Service will deal with this G33 statement)

At the HOD meeting, Groser revealed that he now has sufficient political guidance from the FIPs which would make it easier to draft the annex on agriculture that would gain acceptance. However, he also pointed out that this guidance has come very late.

Groser said that he had received clear signals on export competition from the key players. He has also clearly heard the concerns expressed on special products, special safeguard measures and sensitive products. He assured members that paragraphs in the current annex on agriculture would be changed on the basis of guidance he has received from developed and developing countries.

27 delegations which included Switzerland, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, the Philippines Tanzania, Cuba, Chile and Barbados then took the floor.  Many of them voiced their frustration at how the agriculture negotiations have been conducted. Some members warned that it would be very hard to accept a text which they had no ownership of.

This was followed by a short informal HOD meeting on NAMA. Amb Johannesson who is the facilitator of the NAMA issue in the July Package said that differences remain over the status, treatment and content of the “vehicle”.  He was reporting back from the Greenroom meetings he held in the afternoon. 

Earlier in the afternoon, the Swiss President, Mr Joseph Deiss speaking on behalf of the G10 countries said at a press conference that the outcome of the current WTO talks will be unacceptable if concerns of the G10 countries are not taken on board. “We cannot say we can accept everything in the revised framework.” He warned, “in any negotiations you have to accept the possibility of failure and the possibility of failure is surely in the room.”

The G10 complained strongly about their exclusion from these meetings between the FIPs. “We once again have to deplore that the FIP are meeting without goes without saying that the outcome of their deliberations cannot reflect in any way our sensitivities.”

For the G10 according to Deiss, “the most difficult issue remains market access.” These countries want non-trade concerns to be taken into account in this pillar. “As is the case with special and differential treatment,” the Swiss president asserted.

“We have three major preoccupations on market access,” he elucidated.

First, the G10 remain “strongly against any reference to tariff capping in the framework.” “Without deleting the existing reference to the capping, it will be extremely difficult for us to support the Framework by the end of the week.”   Second, the notion of sensitive products needs to be made more explicit in the framework. “For us,” said Deiss “this means that members should have the leeway to select sensitive products.” He added that “scope of the sensitivities should be proportional to the level of ambition of the tiered formula.”  Thirdly, the G10 cannot accept mandatory TRQ expansion for each tariff line as it “does not provide the necessary flexibility to take into account our non-trade concerns,” Deiss explained.

On the issue of domestic support, the G10 “reject the notion of product-specific reductions of the AMS as mentioned in the current draft.”

Speaking for Switzerland, Mr Deisis took an aggressive position on NAMA, saying it “cannot accept any watering down of the text” on NAMA. Mr Deisis warned that “any reopening could be disastrous for the negotiations.”   Regarding the so-called “vehicle”, he said:  “This vehicle should indicate the issues on which Members will have to concentrate their efforts in the future. In a sense, it is programmatic instrument, but it should in no way alter the substance of Annex B, he insisted.