TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Aug09/01)
3 August 2009
Third World Network

NAMA Chair reports on week of discussions
Published in SUNS #6745 dated 21 July 2009

Geneva, 20 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-agricultural Products (NAMA) has indicated that he is not planning any work on the core modalities for the September meetings. It is not clear whether this implies that he will not be preparing a new Chairman's text for September.

The Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, was reporting to an informal NAMA meeting, on the outcome of the "NAMA week" of 13-17 July, mostly devoted to a technical scheduling workshop. He later briefed the media.

[According to an article in the "WTO Reporter" on 8 July, WTO Director-General Mr. Pascal Lamy had called on the chairs of various negotiating groups to come out with revised draft texts, and according to some media reports, had suggested that this would be for the "mini-Ministerial" to be held in New Delhi, India before the Pittsburgh G20 summit in the third week of September.

[Reports from India though indicate that the mini-Ministerial would be a meeting of the WTO G-20 agricultural group plus some others (about 30 ministers), being hosted by the Indian trade minister. It is not clear how this will tie up into the US-hosted Pittsburgh summit of the Group of 20.]

The NAMA Chair had bilateral consultations with Argentina, Venezuela and South Africa on their specific situations with regards to the NAMA modalities. He also held consultations with a group of countries concerning a "road map" for the work of the Group in the autumn.

According to trade officials, most of the week of 13-17 July was devoted to a workshop for members on how to incorporate the results of the NAMA negotiations in their schedules (so-called scheduling) once the modalities are agreed.

Trade officials said that this was a very complicated and time-consuming technical exercise, which at this stage, can only be done as a simulation.

The delegations and the Chair, Ambassador Wasescha of Switzerland, praised the technical staff of the Secretariat who organized the different workshops.

The Chair also held bilateral consultations with Argentina, Venezuela and South Africa.

Reporting to an informal open-ended meeting of the Group on Friday, the Chair said that his consultations with Argentina and Venezuela were extremely constructive, frank and open-minded but that it was not the most opportune moment to embark on an intensive discussion on these issues.

However, in the case of South Africa, there was a readiness to pursue consultations with trading partners although the time might not be right for the others to engage in such consultations.

According to trade officials, the Chair also held consultations with a group of countries concerning a "road map" for the work in the autumn. There seemed to be a sense among many of the countries that it was important to send a positive signal from Geneva and start as soon as possible intensive negotiations in September. He added that he also detected some hesitation.

With regards to the "road map", the Swiss envoy said that he will start with work on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and on the sectoral initiative later on.

The Chair also met with the sponsors of the chemical sector (in respect of the sectoral initiative), who reported on the technical work that they are doing to increase their outreach.

According to trade officials, the Chair said that he found especially interesting the information provided on the cumulative impact of tariffs on the production of chemicals. Some sponsors of this sector though expressed regret over the lack of participation of the key players in this sector in the information meetings.

In this respect, the Chair said that there is a need for bilateral dialogue among delegations to see whether there is a common ground for a wider participation of members in this and other sectors.

Remarking on the overall picture in the negotiations, the Chair said that he was like a captain on a boat standing at the pier ready to sail, but the passengers, instead of boarding the boat, get their handkerchiefs out and bid him farewell.

He said that the interest to board the boat has to come from the members. He can provide incentives but members have to be the ones convinced to do the trip. "The boat is ready and our political leaders have given us the instruction to embark and sail, so let's do it", he said.

At a press briefing following the informal meeting, the Chair elaborated on the special circumstance of Argentina, saying that Argentina accepts the idea of a tariff-reduction formula but considers that the present proposal and the flexibilities attached to the formula does not help the country overcome its difficulties.

In addition, there is the MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market) dimension, which supposes internal negotiations between Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, which have not taken place yet, he said.

On his consultations with Argentina and Venezuela, the Chair said that "at this stage, there is no need to engage because the situation has not changed since December last, or has even become worse."

In response to a question, the Chair said that he does not foresee work on the core modalities in September. "We now need to see other negotiating groups to catch up, because when you come to a final balancing, you have to have every file on the table", and not only agriculture and NAMA, he said. +