Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Aug09/07)
outlines road map for
his report to the TNC, WTO chief Pascal Lamy said that he sensed from
the recent meetings held in Bali,
is clear that for political leaders we are now entering the end-game.
Therefore, we need to urgently translate this change in atmospherics
into a clear path for engagement across the board in the negotiations
The Director-General was presenting his report on the state of play in the various negotiating areas as well as an insight into the sort of road map envisaged by the chairs of the negotiating groups in the weeks after the summer break.
Many countries spoke following the report by the Director-General. The developing countries broadly stressed that the bilateral/plurilateral process to close the gaps should not compromise transparency and inclusiveness, and that the multilateral track should have priority and should not be made hostage to the bilateral/plurilateral process. The importance of the development dimension was also stressed by the developing countries.
According to some trade diplomats, Crawford Falconer, former Chair of the agriculture negotiations and now a deputy secretary in the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, struck a critical tone. No text of his remarks, at the as-usual closed WTO meeting, was made available to the media.
However, speaking to journalists after the informal TNC meeting, Falconer said that in terms of the understanding of the Ministers and heads of government on what the process in Geneva is, he would be very worried that Members are not prepared to meet the political expectations because "at the moment, all we've got is a series of dates of meetings and there's nothing any more of substance than that."
Pointing out that there are some bilateral meetings going on, Falconer expressed hope that the bilateral meetings work. "But if they don't, you're still going to need a whole lot of multilateral things that need to be done," he said, adding that there is no programme for that.
Falconer also said that the whole "sequencing" is now getting more and more confused. "What's the sequencing? Are we supposed to do just agriculture and NAMA? Or, are we supposed to be doing services at the same time or are we supposed to be doing trade facilitation, or when? But there is no clear line. In fact, there used to be a clear line, there isn't one now. We need to work that out. We can't have lack of clarity about that. Otherwise, your programme of work gets confused."
He said that it's the responsibility of Members here to work that out and not leave it to the Ministers. "They shouldn't waste their time on that."
worry is that there seems to be no concerted process to bring this together
speaking to journalists after the informal TNC meeting, Ambassador Ujal
Singh Bhatia of
According to trade officials, there was agreement on the part of Members that there needs to be a lot more work done in areas other than modalities in agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA). These issues have been front and centre for some time now and other issues have lagged behind.
differed however on the sequence and the timing, with the most important
of the issues pertaining to sequence and timing being services. Some
delegations believe that there needs to be a catching up of services.
On the other side, there were those that believe that the
Trade officials said that there was also agreement on the part of Members that there should be no surprises in the scheduling process.
to a developing-country trade diplomat, Members were of the view that
the scheduling exercise should not tilt the balance in the negotiations.
The scheduling exercise should be a technical one and should not divert
energy away from the
In his report to the TNC, Lamy said that at the meetings of Ministers and Heads of State and government in Bali, Paris, L'Aquila and in Singapore, he had stressed three fundamental messages: (I) we need to keep trade open and resist protectionist measures; (ii) the best way to keep trade open is to keep opening trade, hence the need to conclude the Doha Round as soon as possible.
[The Bali meeting was of the Cairns Group and some others like India who were invited; the Paris meeting, convened by Australia on the sidelines of the annual OECD meeting, was of key countries in the Doha negotiations; L'Aquila was in relation to the G8+5 meeting; and Singapore was the venue of the APEC Ministerial meeting.]
"In light of this, I invited leaders to give the necessary instructions and flexibility to their negotiators and Senior Officials so as to facilitate the narrowing of differences and accelerate decision-making in Geneva and, (iii) we must implement on the ground commitments to Aid for Trade and continue to provide the oil that runs the machinery of international trade - trade finance.
sensed a genuine and strong renewal of political commitment to re-engage
is clear that for political leaders, we are now entering the end-game,"
said Lamy. "Therefore, we need to urgently translate this change
in atmospherics into a clear path for engagement across the board in
the negotiations in
"Both tracks which we discussed at our last TNC need to be re-energised and focused. Starting with multilateral work in all negotiating groups. This has been, is and will be the centre of our negotiations.
"Bilateral discussions, on which a number of you are engaged, also need to be energised and you need to drill into specifics. We need to see serious and honest engagement taking place now. However, bilateral engagement should not be a reason for slowing the multilateral process or for holding it up. The two processes now have to move simultaneously. It also remains clear, of course, that decision-making belongs only to the multilateral track."
The Director-General also said that his contacts also indicate agreement that scheduling in Agriculture and NAMA must follow the principle of "no surprises". This means that all significant issues relating to schedules must be clear at the time modalities are established. In keeping with the Single Undertaking, a commensurate level of certainty will also be required in the other Negotiating Groups.
This implies that delegations must start thinking of the signals to send to all Chairs about what would be "big-ticket" items for them. There will also have to be collective agreement not to take "hostages". Finally, more horizontal processes to address political sensitivities across the board have to be put in place from September on, he said.
Lamy then turned to each of the negotiating areas where he briefed Members on the state of play as well as an outline of the road map envisaged by the chairs of the negotiating groups after the summer break.
The areas he highlighted included agriculture, NAMA, Rules, Services, the GI register for wines and spirits, the Committee on Trade and Environment in special session, work on Special and Differential Treatment, Trade Facilitation, Dispute Settlement (which is not part of the Doha single undertaking), GI extension and TRIPS/CBD relationship and Aid for Trade.
In agriculture, Lamy said that work is continuing, particularly in light of the renewed political mandate from the G20 and G8. The Revision 4 (of the Agriculture Chair's text) with bracketed and annotated areas needing further work have been identified. These include SSM (especially the architecture), cotton, issues related to sensitive products, preference erosion and tropical products, TRQ expansion as well as tariff simplification.
The Chair has indicated that consultations are under way to determine how best to broach these issues, with a view to a steady programme of technical work in late-summer through to the autumn. The aim is to complete as much as possible of the outstanding technical work so as to set the stage for decisions on more political issues.
Lamy added that discussions are on-going on the templates for scheduling and on the required format of support tables and data needs - both for completion of the templates and for the establishment of modalities and of the time-lines and process for scheduling and verification. "It will be important for Members to take ownership of this matter so that you can be fully ready, with agreed time lines and formats, to complete the scheduling process in agriculture once modalities are established."
In NAMA, apart from a number of open-ended transparency sessions in the first half of this year, the Negotiating Group has also held two dedicated sessions on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs). These sessions were useful in that they helped delegations to focus on the legal texts. The Group has also been looking at scheduling issues, and a Workshop on Electronic Negotiating Files was organized the week of 13 July.
Concerning the work programme for the coming months, Lamy said that the Chair has planned three NAMA weeks starting in September at which time the emphasis will be on advancing the negotiations on NTBs. This is an area where much work remains to be done. On the other open issues, the Chair's intention is to take them up when Members are ready to engage on them.
The Director-General said that from the road map he has described, the autumn "will be a very busy period. We have to ensure that the whole caravan moves forward together and arrives on time."
"I am confident we can do this if we keep our commitment strong and match it with action. I hope you will all make the most of the holiday period so that we can come back refreshed and ready for a busy and productive autumn," he told delegations.
after Lamy's report, and noting the outlines of the road map that the
Director-General had depicted to Members,
had bad experiences in the Uruguay Round, particularly in the scheduling
of the agricultural commitments, which we wish to avoid this time around,"
novelty was proposed by some delegations with the argument that flexibilities
negotiated by and for developing countries made the results of the Round
difficult to assess. Under this concept, Members would submit preliminary
schedules which would be the basis of a subsequent phase of request
and offer negotiations, said
Brazil said that it agreed to engage in the process of renewed engagement as long as a few key principles were observed, among them: (a) that negotiations would remain multilateral; (b) that negotiations would be development friendly; ( c) that we would work in a bottom-up process; (d) that the draft modalities were the basis for negotiations; (e) that we would not accept a selective reopening of the package contained in those drafts - if one area was reopened, requiring additional contribution by some or all, the other areas would be also renegotiated to keep the balance that was sought to be achieved in July 2008.
course, the more precision and clarity we require in each of the negotiating
areas, the longer it will take to conclude negotiations in Ag and NAMA.
On the other hand, Ag and NAMA remain key pieces of the puzzle and without
progress in these subjects, we have to be realistic on how we'll be
able to effectively negotiate elsewhere," said
"I strongly suggest that, for the moment, before jumping to conclusions on how to deal with the current mandates, we roll-up our sleeves and get right down to work in all areas and see how much progress we are able to achieve in the next several weeks.
we take a pause, assess where we are, and decide how to continue our
trip in a way that fulfills our leaders' calls for engagement and urgency,"
to trade officials,
such a context, concluding the Doha Round would be a very strong stimulus
to African growth and development. But an early conclusion should not
come at any price, said
should be specific priority assigned to duty-free, quota-free market
access for LDCs and cotton, said
The European Union said that there is need to translate the progress made in discussions in various fora into action here. The bilateral process can help to explore what will be on the table, what improvements can be offered and what the payments for these will be, but we can't wait too long. The bilateral process must not be used as an excuse to slow progress in the multilateral arena.
The EU said that there should be no surprises after the agriculture and NAMA modalities, including in rules, services, trade and environment and TRIPS. These areas must be sufficiently mature at the end of the modalities, so that all Members can see with a level of precision what is the value of what is on the table. Services are key for the EU.