TWN Info Service
on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr06/18)
G33 won't accept agriculture modalities without SPs and SSM
The Group of 33 on 20 April sent a letter to WTO Director- General Pascal Lamy stating that its members will not accept proposed modalities for agriculture if these do not include modalities on special products (SPs) and a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) that are key aspects of special and differential treatment for developing countries.
"We would like to emphasize that the G33 should not be expected to join a consensus on modalities or any elements thereof, which do not incorporate the modalities on SPs and SSM," wrote Indonesian Ambassador Gusmardi Bustami, who coordinates the G33, in a letter delivered to Lamy. Trade: G33 won't accept agriculture modalities without SPs and SSM
Below is a report of the letter.
With best wishes
By Martin Khor (TWN), Geneva, 20 Apr 2006
The Group of 33 has written a letter to WTO Director- General Pascal Lamy stating that its members will not accept proposed modalities for agriculture if these do not include modalities on special products (SPs) and a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) that are key aspects of special and differential treatment for developing countries.
"We would like to emphasize that the G33 should not be expected to join a consensus on modalities or any elements thereof, which do not incorporate the modalities on SPs and SSM," wrote Indonesian Ambassador Gusmardi Bustami, who coordinates the G33, in a letter delivered to Lamy on 20 April.
The letter (a copy of which was also sent to Ambassador Crawford Falconer of New Zealand, Chairperson of the agriculture negotiations) comes at a crucial juncture as the 30 April deadline is rapidly approaching for finalising modalities for agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA).
The G33 letter is a new and important development in the build-up to the end-of-April deadline, since Lamy has reportedly put forward a plan to "sequence" the adoption of modalities.
In this sequence, "key modalities" will first be considered and adopted, and this is supposed to "unlock" the negotiations on other issues which are to be dealt with at a later stage.
Lamy's "key modalities" comprise figures for reducing "amber box" domestic support and total domestic support in agriculture, figures for reducing tariffs in agriculture, treatment of sensitive products in agriculture, formula and coefficients for the tariff reduction formula for NAMA and flexibilities for developing countries in applying the NAMA formula.
Controversy surrounds the Lamy plan. Firstly, many members do not agree to the definition of "key modalities", especially those whose priority issues have been left out of the Lamy list.
Secondly, many members also do not agree to the "sequencing" and "partial modalities" approach. They believe that all aspects of modalities should be agreed to at the same time. They cite the Ministerial decision at Hong Kong, which calls for modalities, and does not provide for sequencing or finalising of some modalities first.
Last week, African Trade Ministers at an African Union conference in Nairobi issued a Declaration stressing that the April outcome for modalities must be "all-inclusive" and that establishing "partial modalities" that exclude African concerns would not be acceptable. Among the African concerns mentioned are SPs, SSM and preference erosion.
The chairperson of the agriculture negotiations, Ambassador Falconer himself also stated in a note to delegations that the aim of the negotiations is "securing the so-called modalities. Not 'half' modalities, or 'partial' modalities or modalities 'a la carte'. It is the full fixed menu."
The G33 letter indicates concerns that are similar to the African Ministers, that only a select list of issues is chosen for finalising modalities. Other issues, which are of crucial importance to the G33 would then be in danger of being neglected, and the leverage of the Group on their issues would then be lost, since the modalities on issues of interest to the major members had already been settled.
The G33 is a grouping of 45 WTO members, which have a priority interest in defending the interests of their agricultural sector and their farmers in terms of food security, livelihood security and rural development.
The Group has pioneered the concepts of special products of developing countries (which would be provided special treatment, such as lower than formula tariff reduction rates) and SSM (which can be used by developing countries facing the threat of surges in agricultural imports).
"We would be very concerned if these two issues of priority to so many developing countries are to be left out of modalities to be dealt with in agriculture," said a senior delegate of a G33 country.
"As far as we are concerned, these are very key modalities indeed. If they are dealt with satisfactorily from our point of view, these issues will 'unlock' other issues. You can't decide on the formula and figures and then leave SP and SSM issues to be handled later."
In his letter to Lamy, Ambassador Gusmardi Bustami said that agriculture is of critical importance for almost all developing countries. This is particularly so for the G33 countries, which are characterized by subsistence and resource poor producers, structurally vulnerable agriculture, rural poverty, and food insecurity.
"Therefore, for the G33 countries, food security, livelihood security, and rural development are the core of the development dimension and must be fully addressed as an integral part of the modalities and outcome of the agriculture negotiations," said the G33 letter.
"The incorporation of Special Products (SPs) and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) in the General Council Decision of 1st August 2004 and the further detailed elaboration of the two concepts in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, shows the importance Ministers attach to realizing the development dimension in the agriculture negotiations.
"This recognition has encouraged the G33 to engage constructively in the negotiations, making contributions to the negotiations by presenting concrete, technically sound and balanced proposals on modalities for SPs and SSM.
"In our endeavour to move the negotiations process forward, the Group has shown enormous flexibility, moving away from its long held original positions. The Group is thus concerned with the position taken by its negotiating partners, some of whom are even attempting to undermine and diminish not only the Doha mandate on agriculture, but also the agreement reached under the July framework and by the Ministers in Hong Kong on the issues of SPs and SSM.
"In this context, we would like to emphasize that the G33 should not be expected to join a consensus on modalities or any elements thereof, which do not incorporate the modalities on SPs and SSM. Having said this, we are however confident that you will ensure that SPs and SSM will remain an integral part of, and will be fully reflected in, the modalities on agriculture due in April 2006 as mandated by the Ministers at Hong Kong.
"Finally, I would like to reiterate the G33 willingness to cooperate with you in achieving a successful conclusion of the negotiations through an all inclusive and transparent process."