TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (July04/26)
30 July 2004
Third World Network
Strong disagreements break out at NAMA meeting
By Martin Khor (TWN), Geneva 29 July 2004
Strong disagreements among WTO members emerged at a heads-of-delegation meeting on non-agricultural market access (NAMA) on Thursday 29 July just hours before a revised draft of the “July package” was scheduled to come out.
The disagreements have thrown new doubts on whether existing divergences among members can be sorted out in time before the deadline of Friday.
The wrangle in today’s HOD meeting was whether the July package’s Annex B on NAMA could be adopted as the framework for modalities, and whether a “vehicle” could be established with language to indicate that there are still differences of views on the Annex.
The present draft in para 1c says the General Council “adopts the framework set out in Annex B”, whilst Annex B contains the “Framework for Establishing Modalities”, which is identical to the annex in the Derbez text released at Cancun.
Several developing countries spoke up against the adoption of Annex B under the language of para 1c. They argued that the Derbez text had not been accepted in Cancun, and that in the post-Cancun negotiations, many members had expressed disagreement with many aspects of that text. They criticized the process by which the text had been placed unchanged in the July package.
Many counties also rejected the proposal by the Chair of the NAMA negotiating group, and by some members, to set up a so-called “vehicle” where some indication of divergence of views could be given.
[On other occasions, developing countries had expressed apprehensive that such a “vehicle” could be located outside of the text or Annex, and thus have little legal or political significance.]
On the other hand, developed countries including the United States and the EU were adamant that Annex B be adopted and that a “vehicle” with suitable language could adequately take care of the concerns of those members that may not agree with elements of the Annex.
Major developed countries reportedly said that the Annex B text had already been known for a long time, that it was well balanced, and thus should now be adopted as the framework, accompanied by a “vehicle” if necessary. Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru reportedly supported having Annex B together with a “vehicle.”
However, this approach was objected to by Nigeria, speaking for the Africa Group, which said there had not been any movement in negotiations based on the Derbez text, on which there had not been agreement. The Africa Group did not agree to the Annex, nor to the vehicle. He proposed that consultations continue on the issue.
Zimbabwe reportedly said that someone had made an undemocratic decision never to open Annex B. But our position since Cancun has not been to accept this Derbez text. It also did not accept the idea of a vehicle. It was also unpalatable to be put in a situation of being squeezed for time.
Tanzania, which coordinates the LDC Group, reportedly said that the problem raised by the Africa Group concerning the concept of a vehicle needs to be explored.
South Africa reportedly said that many countries did not accept the vehicle concept, and so we should not go ahead with this and instead we should have further discussion.
Zambia endorsed the statements of Nigeria for the Africa Group and of Tanzania for the LDC Group, as well as what other countries like South Africa, Zimbabawe and Morocco said.
Jamaica reportedly said that they have put us in an impossible situation of having to formally adopt a text which contains very specific elements with which we disagree, elements which we have drawn attention to repeatedly.
He said that since Cancun, we have raised our concerns repeatedly on NAMA. Jamaica is in no doubt that the appropriate and correct course in this so called development round and in such an area of great importance to developing countries is to open the text on NAMA and accommodate the genuine concerns of so many developing countries.
India said the proposed concept of “vehicle” is not an appropriate mode of transport, and perhaps what we need instead is a bridge. We must have some language with some legal certainty to be placed in Para 1c of the text, in order to meet the concerns raised by the members.
General Council chairman, Shotaro Oshima, when opening the HOD meeting, reportedly told the delegates that there was not yet convergence of views on NAMA and asked for guidance from the members on the way forward. He reportedly admitted that the avenue of using a “vehicle” had not worked very well, and asked members to suggest what should be done.
At the end of the HOD meeting, Oshima said that he would hold further consultations.
From 8.20 to about 10 on Thursday night, an informal consultation was held on the issue. Apparently it ended without agreement.