TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Sept09/17)
26 September 2009
Third World Network

Lamy proposes "intensive" work plan for next three months
Published in SUNS #6777 dated 23 September 2009 

Geneva, 22 Sep (Kanaga Raja) -- The Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, on Tuesday proposed an "intensive, structured programme" for work across the Doha agenda over the next three months, with the participation of senior officials from capitals each month.

Lamy's proposal came at an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), just ahead of the summit of G20 leaders to take place in Pittsburgh on 24-25 September. The Director-General is expected to attend the summit.

"This is what Ministers in Delhi asked us (to do). It is also what the objective needs of the negotiating process require if we are to be back on track - and stay on track - to conclude next year. It is an important step..." Lamy said in his report to the informal TNC meeting at the level of heads of delegation.

The Director-General however acknowledged that "a work programme by itself, as necessary as it may be, will not deliver a substantive result. It is insufficient to lead to a result. This can only come from political engagement and from the hard bargaining on the few remaining issues that we have yet to see."

In the detailed Doha work programme, the week of 21-30 September is being taken up amongst others by talks on agriculture (consultations on modalities issues), Non-Agricultural Market Access (Non Tariff-Barriers, reports on sectoral initiative, Chair's consultations on case-specific flexibilities, preference erosion, and other issues) and rules (horizontal subsidies and fisheries subsidies).

The period of 1-9 October will be taken up by a continuation of template/data discussions in agriculture, a services cluster of meetings, TRIPS, Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session and trade facilitation. The week of 12-16 October will take up further discussion on agriculture, TRIPS and DSU review meeting. Senior officials will meet in the week of 19-23 October. A General Council meeting is slated for 20-21 October.

From 2-6 November, there will be a further NAMA week of discussions, as well as the issue of TRIPS. The week of 9-13 November will be devoted to services, trade facilitation, DSU review meeting and TRIPS. The week of 16-20 November will focus on discussions in agriculture, as well as the Committee on Trade and Environment in Special Session. Senior officials will meet on 23-27 November.

The week of 7-11 December will be devoted to agriculture, NAMA and rules, with senior officials meeting on 14-16 December. A General Council meeting is scheduled for 17-18 December.

The WTO head told the informal TNC meeting that he remains cautious in his forecast at this stage. "It would be premature for me to predict today that the necessary political engagement will in fact take place over the next three months. We should be in a position to judge by December whether or not this has happened."

"Clearly, the chances of concluding the Round in 2010 depends very much on the answer to that question," he added, pointing out that it depends on members' engagement at all levels - multilaterally, plurilaterally and bilaterally.

He said that this was also the message that he will be taking to the G20 leaders in Pittsburgh. "I will tell them that we in Geneva have done what they asked of us. They now have the road mapped out, but they still have to walk it."

"Failure to act - not just in Pittsburgh, but more particularly here in Geneva - will be hard felt by the entire international community at this time of economic crisis... The G20 must show this leadership and send the right signal, and there must be the appropriate follow-up on the ground here in Geneva," he added.

According to trade officials, following the Director-General's report, several members said that the political rhetoric had to be translated into concrete action in Geneva.

Egypt, on behalf of the African Group, emphasized that the negotiating process must remain multilateral and fully transparent, with a bottom-up approach. It also stressed the need to avoid introducing new notions and ideas that complicate the negotiating process. Ensuring "no surprises" would only be attainable when the elements and modalities reflecting a truly development round is realized.

The focus first has to be on concluding modalities in agriculture and NAMA, in accordance with the mandate, while preserving and building on progress achieved so far, and avoiding any reinterpretation of the mandates or selectively reopening stabilized issues for negotiations, said Egypt.

It further said that the African countries remain concerned that no significant progress has been made in some of the key areas of interest to them. It called on all relevant parties to give the mandated priority to resolve the cotton issue, as well as other issues of main concern to Africa and the Least Developed Countries, such as duty-free, quota-free market access for the LDCs.

According to trade officials, Brazil expressed concern over the pace of the negotiations. It said that there seems to be a disconnect between rhetoric and action. It felt that the road map was an important step forward. Everyone must negotiate on the basis of what is on the table.

South Africa, on behalf of the NAMA-11, said that in several recent meetings held in the WTO and in some smaller Ministerial meetings, one of the major developed country players in the WTO has stated that its constituencies are not satisfied with the level of ambition in the current NAMA text and this member has called for additional market access from developing countries, beyond the current texts.

The NAMA-11 called on all members to respect the Doha development mandate, and respect the agreements reached thus far. It also urged developed members to respect the fact that the sectoral negotiations are voluntary and attempts should not be made to make them mandatory.

According to trade officials, South Africa added that the negotiating process requires that there should be no major negotiations after the scheduling process. In a development round and a time of the deepest recession since the 1930s, the level of ambition being sought by developed members has to be realistic, it said.

Cuba said that the problem has been a lack of political will. The first step should be to take up the Chairs' texts on agriculture and NAMA. All delegations must be involved. It also highlighted the issue of transparency and inclusiveness. +