TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr09/11)
27 April 2009
Third World Network

New Zealand's Walker to oversee agriculture talks at WTO
Published in SUNS #6679 dated 14 April 2009

Geneva, 9 Apr (Kanaga Raja) -- The ambassador of New Zealand to the WTO, Mr David Walker, will be the new chair of the agriculture negotiations, replacing Ambassador Crawford Falconer, who has chaired the negotiations for almost four years.

The selection of Walker as the new Chair of the agriculture negotiations was the result of consultations conducted with members since after 18 March by the General Council Chair, Mr Mario Matus of Chile.

Walker was appointed as ambassador to the WTO late last year, replacing Falconer, who was then named as Special Ambassador and stayed on to lead the agriculture negotiations.

Unlike with the other chairs, Falconer was seen as acting impartially, and seemed to command the confidence of all sides in the negotiations to the point where they had asked for his being continued to lead the talks.

Falconer is now returning to New Zealand to become deputy secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

According to trade officials, the General Council Chair informed members on Wednesday that the consultations "have shown a consensus" to appoint Walker as the new Chair of the agriculture negotiations.

Trade officials said that helping Mr Matus in the consultations were ambassadors John Gero of Canada, who chairs the Dispute Settlement Body, and Muhamad Noor Yacob of Malaysia, a former General Council chairperson.

Ambassador Walker's appointment will be confirmed at the next formal meeting of the Special Session of the Agriculture Committee, which oversees the agriculture negotiations.

According to trade officials, no date has been set yet for the meeting.

Ambassador Walker becomes the third New Zealand ambassador to chair the agriculture negotiations, after Tim Groser (2003-2005, now New Zealand's trade minister) and Crawford Falconer (2005-2009).

The present terms for Chairs of the negotiating bodies under the Trade Negotiations Committee run from one Ministerial Conference to the next, while the Chairs of the regular WTO Councils and committees, have terms that are annual.

The last WTO Ministerial Conference took place in Hong Kong-China in 2005. Though mandated to meet once in two years, the WTO did not convene one in 2007. +