TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec09/12)
17 December 2009
Third World Network

WTO Ag Chair to accelerate meetings to fortnightly sessions
Published in SUNS #6834 dated  14 December 2009 

Geneva, 11 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the agriculture negotiations at the WTO told Members on Friday that he is planning on expanding the current monthly week of meetings to once every fortnight in early February and March 2010.

In an informal meeting of the Special Session of the Agriculture Committee on Friday morning, following a week of discussions that focused on technical work, Chairman David Walker of New Zealand said that Members would also have an opportunity to look at "templates" and data needs in late January, particularly on domestic support and market access.

According to trade officials, this comes following this week's presentation by the US - drawn from various Members' contributions - on how the discussions so far can be brought together on the third "pillar" of the agriculture negotiations, namely, export competition.

The discussion on the issue of templates remains in the transition from Step 1 (identifying what data are needed, when, and how it should be presented) to Step 2 (designing the forms for spelling out commitments), said trade officials.

The week also saw a discussion by Members on the issue of data - in particular, the latest submissions from Members - which will be needed for the final agreement.

According to trade officials, one set of data was on domestic consumption, which is needed to calculate the size of tariff quotas for products that are going to be declared "sensitive".

According to trade officials, the US chaired this discussion.

Another set of data was on the value of production, which is needed to calculate commitments on various types of domestic support.

According to trade officials, South Africa chaired this discussion.

On the issue of tariff simplification, the EU illustrated how its proposed simplification would cut by 99% the number of its tariff lines on products containing milk fats and proteins, sugar and starch. There would be a reduction from 27,720 lines to less than 300.

According to trade officials, the EU said the tariffs themselves would also be simplified so that they are either ad valorem (percentages of the price) or specific (for example, euros per ton).

Further meetings are scheduled for January, February and March 2010. +