TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct09/09)
29 October 2009
Third World Network

Discussions continue on data and templates
Published in SUNS #6796 dated 20 October 2009

Geneva, 19 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- WTO Members concluded another round of meetings on 16 October on technical work in relation to defining what data is needed and how this will shape the templates that will enable them to put down on paper their forthcoming commitments in agriculture.

According to trade officials, negotiators continued to progress steadily on these highly technical tasks and could move onto the next step next month.

The Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture met in informal mode on 12-13 October and on 16 October.

According to trade officials, at the end of the week of talks on 16 October, some delegations including the G20 (Brazil speaking) and Australia cautioned that although the technical work is essential, it must not hold up progress on the substance of the negotiations.

Chairperson Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand briefly highlighted the consultations that he has been conducting privately with delegations on some of the issues that remain undecided in the current draft modalities.

These include sensitive products, tariff caps and possible payment for exceeding these caps, tariff quota expansion and tariff simplification.

In the informal open-ended meetings on 12 and 13 October, delegations (Australia, the EC, the US and Canada) circulated a number of additional papers to help define the data needs and how they might be presented in this first step of the work on the templates.

According to trade officials, the Chair expressed hope that this first step can be finished when negotiators meet again in the week of 16 November.

Trade officials explained that the two steps, which are outlined in a paper from Uruguay, are:

-- Step 1: considering what "base data" are needed under the present draft modalities - what is already available, what will need to be "constructed", and whether the draft modalities say how this should be done.

This step would also include the question of whether supporting tables - tables displaying the data and how they are derived - are needed and what their format would be.

-- Step 2: developed from Step 1, designing "templates" or blank forms to be used for the commitments resulting from the Doha Round negotiations, and for any supporting data required. Parts of the data could be presented before, during or after the modalities have been agreed.

According to trade officials, the discussions have covered all the three pillars of the agriculture negotiations, namely, export competition, domestic support and market access.

The next round of meetings are scheduled for the week of 16 November.