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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May 06/14)

31 May 2006
 

WTO modalities texts on 19 June, mini-Ministerial at end-June


The WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has indicated that draft negotiating texts on modalities for agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) would come out on or about 19 June, and that some "Ministerial involvement" would be required in the last week of June to reach agreement on the texts.

This is taken to mean that a mini-Ministerial meeting would be convened at the WTO at the end of June.

Lamy was speaking at a Heads-of-Delegation (HOD) meeting Tuesday.

On Monday, at a "Green Room" meeting of about 20 Ambassadors, Lamy had mentioned 29 June as the date to start a Ministerial meeting that would last for two to four days. However, he did not mention these dates at the HOD meeting.

Below is a report of these latest WTO developments. It was published in the South North Development Monitor (SUNS)


With best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN

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WTO modalities texts on 19 June, mini-Ministerial at end-June

Geneva, 30 May 2006:  By Kanaga Raja (South North Development Monitor)


The WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has indicated that draft negotiating texts on modalities for agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) would come out on or about 19 June, and that some "Ministerial involvement" would be required in the last week of June to reach agreement on the texts.

This is taken to mean that a mini-Ministerial meeting would be convened at the WTO at the end of June.

Lamy, who is also the Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, was speaking at an informal Heads-of-Delegation (HOD) meeting Tuesday where he spelled out to WTO members how he envisages the coming weeks to unfold.

On Monday, at a "Green Room" meeting of about 20 Ambassadors, Lamy had mentioned 29 June as the date to start a Ministerial meeting that would last for two to four days. However, he did not mention these dates at the HOD meeting.

According to trade officials, Lamy indicated at the HOD meeting that the negotiating process would be something along the lines of what took place in July 2004.

[At the end of July 2004, a mixture of Ministers and ambassadors of about 25 members met at the WTO in a Green Room meeting lasting several days. When they reached agreement among themselves, the text was passed over to a meeting of the General Council which convened just after the Green Room meeting ended. The General Council then adopted the text, now known as the July 2004 Framework.]

At the Tuesday HOD meeting, after Lamy's statement, several developing countries raised concerns that the process sketched by Lamy would not enable them to participate in decision-making. They stressed the need for transparency and inclusiveness, which are code words for the need for developing countries to participate.

Lamy told the meeting that while the modalities in agriculture and NAMA are not the sole elements of the Doha agenda's Single Undertaking, it was agreed in Hong Kong that these are the areas that need to be tackled first in order to break the logjam and to also move forward in other areas.

He stressed that the timetable now comprised only a matter of days and not weeks and that modalities can be reached if everyone continued to work constructively and ambitiously.

He cautioned that modalities in agriculture and NAMA need to be established in June, to avoid, at all costs, backloading this work into July. He added that the modalities decision is not the end of the Round but members must take it on by the end of June so that they can sequence events as agreed in Hong Kong and conclude the round on schedule.

The modalities texts (in agriculture and NAMA) should be the basis for Ministerial consideration, Lamy said, adding that his consultations with the Chairs indicated that draft negotiating texts would be produced on or about 19 June.

There would then be time given in a number of different formats including the Negotiating Groups for negotiations and consultations to take place for analysis and questions on the texts that have been submitted.

According to trade officials, Lamy suggested that there will be some direct Ministerial involvement required in the last week of June (the week beginning 26 June).

Lamy said that it is a very tight timetable but not an impossible one and that agreement on agriculture and NAMA modalities can be reached to 'open the gateway' to the conclusion of the round, provided that all participants are prepared to make the necessary effort.

At the meeting, Benin (on behalf of the African Group), Zambia (on behalf of the LDCs), Paraguay, Venezuela and Cuba raised concerns over the issue of transparency and inclusiveness of the process. They were concerned that many developing countries would not have the opportunity to take part in the decision-making.

The African Group reminded the Director-General that they have small delegations and that they should not be "pushed" and "hurried".

Several developing country members also raised questions on the exact role, function and format in which the Ministerial will take place. According to some developing country trade diplomats, Lamy's response to this appeared less than clear. Lamy envisaged something along the lines of what took place in July 2004, and he told members that the ministers would not constitute a decision-making entity. However, on the other hand, Lamy also said that this group of ministers would conduct high-level consultations with a view to breaking the logjam.

Lamy assured members that all key groups and positions would be represented and the final decision will have to come before the TNC. The mix of the Hong Kong Ministerial would be used whereby there would be open-ended meetings as well as smaller group consultations.

Some developing country delegates sought clarification on whether this process announced by Lamy would lead to full or partial modalities. They pointed out that all aspects and issues in the agriculture and NAMA negotiations should be included in whatever outcome this process will lead to. In this regard, Indonesia, Venezuela and Cuba stressed the importance of including Special Products and the Special Safeguard Mechanism as part of the overall modalities.

El Salvador and Honduras said that they were looking to propose new elements on the discussion on small and vulnerable economies.

Cuba pointed out that since only two issues are being targeted for agreement, it can only be a provisional and conditional agreement, even if an agreement is reached at the end of June. This will remain so until everything else is agreed to at the end of the negotiations, Cuba said, adding that they are ready to conclude the Round, provided that it is consistent with the Doha Developmental mandate.

(Goh Chien Yen also contributed to this report)

 


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