TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec05/23)
17 Dec 2005
NO LIGHT AT END OF HK TUNNEL,
BUT A NEW
By Martin Khor,
At the end of the fourth day of the WTO Ministerial Conference, there has hardly been agreement reached on the key issues, and time is almost running out on attempts to get any “value added” out of the meeting.
A revised Ministerial Declaration is due out Saturday “mid-day”. The facilitators of the various issues (agriculture, NAMA, services, development issues, etc) have been given a deadline of Saturday to submit inputs to the conference chairman.
Despite a series of Green Room meetings that meet every night, sometimes to , there has been no agreement on any significant issue as of Friday late night.
According to sources, early
on Saturday morning,
At a heads-of-delegation (HOD) meeting, it was reported to delegates that the previous days’ work on agriculture had been largely on export competition. While many members wanted to name an end-date to export subsidies in all its forms, some brought up the need to link this to resolving how to treat the indirect subsidies first.
They were also told that there are significant gaps in agriculture and NAMA. Though “there is no breakthrough, there is also no breakdown.” On the LDC issue, (how to secure duty and quota free market access for LDC products), the discussion is constructive but more work needs to be done, the delegates were told.
The Kenyan Trade Minister, Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, urged groups to narrow their differences. On cotton, preference erosion, end-date of export subsidies and attainment of “parallelism”, there has been no progress. Significant differences exist on how to address the preference erosion problem.
On NAMA, there was no progress
to report. On development-specific issues, the facilitator,
The facilitator for services, Korean Minister Hyung Chong Kim, was not present to present his report. It could be because the services meeting he was chairing was still going on.
It was a rather stormy meeting, as a large number of developing countries who have problems with the services text (paragraph 21 in the main text and Annex C) became visibly upset with what they felt as a marginalization of their views and concerns.
The manner in which the draft
text on services was brought to
The services situation has reached crisis point, with many developing-country delegations quite outraged at how the contested and unpopular Annex C retains its position, despite repeated formal and informal appeals to have key aspects amended. How this crisis is handled could well determine the fate of the Ministerial. (See separate story on services).
On a day when there was no positive news on the negotiations, the political highlight was an unprecedented press conference jointly held by the leaders and members of leadng developing country groupings operating in the WTO -- the G20, G33, ACP, LDCs, Africa Group, and the Small Economies.
In a large theatre room packed full of people, the coordinators of these groups proclaimed to the public their new concrete attempt at unity, with the aim of harmonizing the position of the developing world in WTO negotiations.
Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, the G20 coordinator, referred to the Joint Statement of the various groupings that was distributed. The platform included the fight against agricultural subsidies, the issues of SPs and SSM, the need to tackle the preference erosion problem head on, cotton and the problems of small economies.
As a grouping, we recognize the diversity of our groups and members, especially our different levels of development, said Amorim. “But we want to address these differences ourselves, rather than allow ourselves to be used in ways that divide us by the developed countries. “This is historic because for the first time, instead of just rhetoric, we are finding concrete ways to address concrete problems of the developing countries.”
Kamal Nath, Commerce Minister
“We have been seeing an
amazing development in the discussions in
Muhammed Rachid, Trade Minister
Mari Pangestu, Trade Minister
The new political alliance
of the South in the WTO will have its work cut out in the final two days
of this Conference, as the fight to get points in the revised draft favourable
to the South will continue till Saturday afternoon. Following that will
be the challenge of responding to the new text, and the battle to have
he correct procedures for transferring the text to