TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues  (May09/03)
13 May April 2009
Third World Network

New Zealand's Walker appointed to chair WTO agriculture talks
Published in SUNS #6687 dated 24 April 2009

Geneva, 23 Apr (Kanaga Raja) -- Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand was officially appointed on Wednesday as the new Chairperson of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, which oversees the agriculture negotiations at the WTO.

At a formal meeting of the Special Session Wednesday afternoon, WTO members officially picked Ambassador Walker as their new chairperson, replacing Ambassador Crawford Falconer also of New Zealand, who has chaired the negotiations for almost four years.

Ambassador Falconer is returning to Wellington to become a deputy secretary in the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry.

According to trade officials, Ambassador Walker told members that his first task is to report on the situation in the agriculture talks and on cotton in WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy's consultations on the development aspects of cotton.

The meeting on cotton is scheduled for Friday.

The new Chair said that he would need some time to consult with members, including the coordinators of various groups, before outlining possible future work.

"To ensure there are no surprises in terms of the conduct and the substance of the negotiations, once I have gathered my thoughts on what I think the most appropriate way forward is, I shall convene another informal special session," said Ambassador Walker.

He discouraged members from commenting on the substance of the negotiations at this stage.

According to trade officials, members that spoke generally welcomed the new Chair and paid tribute to his predecessor, Ambassador Falconer.

Some members said that they consider the 6 December 2008 draft modalities text to be the basis for the last stretch of the talks because it reflects lengthy consultations and negotiations.

In a statement, the G20 expressed its deepest appreciation for Ambassador Falconer's chairmanship of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture.

"We have worked intensively together in the last few years," said the G20, adding that it deems Falconer's December 2008 draft modalities to be the embodiment of these years of hard work and the product of a truly multilateral, transparent and bottom-up process.

"The December 2008 document is a legacy to be preserved and built upon as negotiations continue," said the G20, thanking Ambassador Falconer for this work.

The G20 underscored that agriculture remains at the heart of this Development round. Thus, the work of this Special Session will be crucial for a successful outcome of the Doha Development Agenda.

The G20 welcomed Ambassador David Walker as the new Chairperson, adding that the G20 is prepared to work hard and to engage fully under his leadership.

"We are sure to share with you the same objective of a balanced, ambitious and development-oriented outcome in [the] agriculture negotiations," said the G20.

The formal meeting was opened by the Chair of the General Council, Ambassador Mario Matus of Chile, who described the selection process, invited WTO members to elect Ambassador Walker and then handed over to the new Chair.

Speaking to journalists afterwards, Ambassador Walker said that he cannot say when he will hold another meeting of the full membership until he has had a chance to consult with the members. For the same reason, he declined to comment on what the most difficult issues will be.

"I am, as you know, new to the position of the Chair, so I want to get to know delegations and their thoughts and following that, I indicated that I will come back to delegations with some ideas on the way forward," Ambassador Walker told journalists. +