Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Aug09/09)
calls on Members to reflect and re-focus for work in autumn
Lamy told the General Council that the informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting on 24 July (where he had presented his road map for the Doha talks in the autumn, with work to begin in all negotiating groups) that there had been unanimous agreement that the renewed level of political re-engagement by leaders urgently required translation into tangible progress in the negotiations.
At the informal TNC meeting, while providing this pep talk, Lamy had presented a road map for work from September. There were some critical voices at the informal TNC meeting over the lack of substance.
Talking to the media outside the meeting room on 24 July, Mr. Crawford Falconer, the former chair of the agriculture negotiations and currently the Deputy Secretary in the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, struck a highly critical tone and was worried that the political expectations would not be met since "at the moment, all we've got is a series of dates of meetings and there's nothing any more of substance than that."
Beyond reporting that there was unanimous agreement at the TNC for urgently translating the political re-engagement of leaders into progress in the negotiations, Lamy did not seem to address such misgivings.
Falconer had further said to the media that there was a lot of work to be done at the multilateral level, but there was no programme for that. He was also critical over the issue of "sequencing" (that had been pushed by Lamy at the WTO, to reflect the view of the US that there should be scheduling by key developing countries of their proposed NAMA and agriculture market access commitments, before any modalities accord). The "sequencing" issue had made the entire process more and more confused, Falconer added.
striking an equally critical tone Tuesday at the formal General Council
meeting, Indian Ambassador Ujal Singh Bhatia had expressed disappointment
that the steady stream of political signals seeking an early conclusion
of the Doha Round have not been translated into action through intensive
multilateral negotiations in
only test of political will,
(Negotiations in the two key areas of agriculture and NAMA have gone into technical mode, with agricultural negotiators last week getting down to identifying data that will be needed for them to draft their schedules of commitments. The Chair of the agriculture negotiations has outlined plans for more intensive talks in September, both on filling the gaps in the draft modalities and a continuation of the technical work that began earlier last week.
(In NAMA, the negotiators held a week of discussions on 13-17 July, most of which was devoted to a technical scheduling workshop. As to the road map for the work in the autumn, the Chair of the NAMA negotiations pointed to work on Non-Tariff Barriers and the sectoral initiative later on. The Chair however did not foresee work on the core modalities in September, saying that there was need to see other negotiating groups catching up.
(Speaking to SUNS outside the General Council meeting room on Tuesday, one trade diplomat from a developing country also pointed to the low-key work programme envisaged in the key areas of agriculture and NAMA.)
Lamy's remarks at the General Council was under the first agenda item, namely, the report by the Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC). Lamy told the General Council that at the TNC, there was strong support for the process set out in the detailed road maps and for the need for all participants to be ready to work intensively in the autumn. The message was "all hands on deck".
Lamy said that at the TNC, the primacy of the multilateral arena was stressed by delegations, and various views were expressed about the possible impact of bilaterals on the speed and transparency of multilateral decision-making.
But there was wide agreement that bilateral engagement should be no reason for slowing or holding up the multilateral process, and that the two have to move simultaneously. It was also noted that bilaterals should not go on too long, and should be conducted with the maximum possible transparency.
The strong position was expressed at the TNC that scheduling in agriculture and NAMA would be the arrival point, to be just followed by a verification process; there was also strong support for the "no surprises" principle, not only with regard to the scheduling process in agriculture and NAMA, but also to other areas under the Single Undertaking.
had recalled the sequencing established by Ministers at
This called for a more horizontal process, using the "established pattern of working in concentric circles," and a text-based process as far as possible. To make this effective, delegations need to signal their "big ticket" items, and refrain from "hostage-taking" behaviour.
"We have come a long way, and we are not far from our journey's end," said Lamy. "The sense that we are entering the endgame needs to become both widely shared and effective."
Lamy hoped that the holiday period "will offer you all the chance to not only refresh yourselves but also to reflect and refocus, so that the autumn will indeed be a season of fruitfulness."
Trade officials said that the discussion at the General Council meeting was similar to that at the informal TNC meeting of 24 July. Some delegations that did not take the floor at the TNC meeting, did so at the General Council meeting. Many delegations asked for their statements made at the TNC meeting to be read into the record in the General Council meeting.
its statement at the General Council meeting,
"The gap between the two is clearly due to the fact that some members continue to harbour doubts about whether we really are in the end game situation. We also have to acknowledge that the issue of bilateral meetings is being viewed by some members as a hindrance to multilateral engagement," it added.
have noted that the Agriculture and NAMA Chairs have presented a fairly
low key programme of engagement in September. We have no quarrel with
what the Chairs are doing. They are only interpreting the signals that
they are receiving from the members," said
should not allow the impression to gather that multilateral engagement
is being held hostage to the bilateral process. It is essential that
we return to the multilateral process with full vigour at the earliest,"
"We seem to be moving towards a definition of modalities which is more comprehensive and complete than in the past. If so, this has obvious implications for the other areas in the negotiations. The underlying principle of the Single Undertaking is horizontal trade-offs in all areas."
this to happen, said
foreign direct investment, migrant remittance and official development
assistance diminishing, the ability of LDCs to respond to the crisis
and reduce the tremendous human and social cost associated with the
crisis is becoming even more limited, said
Reporting to the General Council on the second global review of Aid for Trade (6-7 July), the WTO chief said that the presence of the United Nations Secretary General, heads of international organisations and ministers was "a clear demonstration of our collective resolve to collaborate to address the capacity challenges facing developing countries."
"Our assessment is that this conference was successful in taking stock of overall progress achieved since the initiative was launched in 2005 and also in highlighting the need for additional and substantive commitments from donors, particularly at this juncture when developing countries are facing even higher challenges as a result of the current global economic crisis," said the Director-General.
The WTO chief identified a few key issues as priorities for future work. First, was the need to reinforce the regional dimension of Aid for Trade. Secondly, the need to maintain momentum on commitments post 2010. Thirdly, the conference was also unanimous on the need to enhance the role of the private sector in this initiative.
Lastly, said Lamy, the conference highlighted the need to focus attention towards evaluating the impact of aid for trade interventions in developing countries. "For this initiative to maintain the current level of political support, we need to demonstrate clearly and convincingly that Aid for Trade is bearing fruit on the ground and that the capacity to trade in developing countries is effectively being enhanced."
the forthcoming seventh session of the Ministerial Conference to be
In its communication (WT/GC/W/605 dated 2 July 2009), India had proposed that the seventh Ministerial Conference address some systemic issues with the aim of improving the functioning and efficiency of the WTO as a rules-based system, and to make the system more useful, relevant, vibrant and user-friendly.
India's set of five proposals relate to trade information based on member notifications, re-vitalizing WTO Committees, the WTO's engagement with Regional Trade Agreements, an omnibus legal instrument for preferential market access to LDCs, and the need to reaffirm the primacy of international standards and standards setting for WTO obligations (see SUNS #6739 dated 13 July 2009).
its statement under this agenda item,
to its discussions on these ideas with the larger membership,
the first proposal regarding the enhanced integrated database that will
include non-tariff data of Members,
What India is seeking at the Ministerial Conference is an acknowledgment that IDB and CTS have been useful tools for the membership; that they now need to be enhanced to give a broader picture of Members' trade regimes by including non-tariff data derived from the notifications that members make to the WTO; that this database should be made available to the trade operatives as a service; and that a project be initiated, to efficiently and effectively complete this work in a phased and time-bound manner.
the operational level, said
the proposal for revitalizing the WTO Committees,
third proposal regarding WTO's engagement with Regional Trade Agreements
(RTAs), is a critical issue to be addressed if the organisation is to
remain the fulcrum of the global trading system, said
India proposed to seek a direction from Ministers that (i) the WTO enhance its engagement with the RTAs for greater transparency about their content and intents; (ii) the Secretariat assist Members in gaining the needed insight and (iii) Members in CRTA build this information into best practices for negotiating new RTAs.
first part of its proposal seeks to move forward, based on actual experience
gained over the last decade and a half.
could also agree that the transparency mechanism for PTAs, which is
not a part of the
On the second part about the Secretariat compiling the factual report on RTAs on an annual basis and coming out with an "Annual RTA Review", India said that it will seek directions from Ministers that the Secretariat assists Members in gaining the needed insight into these agreements.
fourth proposal, according to
final proposal seeks to focus attention on the fact that increasing
use of national standards and conformity assessment procedures is the
biggest hindrance to smooth trade flows. For developing countries, which
suffer severe structural deficiencies, having to meet with these myriad
requirements is a particular problem, said
considering that this issue is being considered in various fora on WTO,
including some ongoing negotiations, the proposal simply seeks inclusion
in the outcome of the Ministerial Conference "of an exhortation,
a reaffirmation that we should respect and adhere to international standards
and standard setting," said
According to trade officials, the response from Members was generally favourable. Members also said that they are reviewing these issues, and that these issues are under consideration in capitals.