TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar10/17)
26 March 2010
Third World Network

Consultations begin following launch of Doha stocktaking
Published in SUNS #6890 dated 24 March 2010

Geneva, 23 Mar (Kanaga Raja) -- Following the launch of the Doha  stocktaking exercise on Monday, consultations have commenced in various  formats and configurations both among Members themselves and with WTO  Director-General Pascal Lamy.

The week-long stocktaking exercise was kicked off at a formal meeting of  the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) on Monday and is being conducted at  the level of senior officials.

According to trade officials, the Director-General will be consulting this  week with all the country groupings in the World Trade Organization.

A "Green Room" (of some 30-35 delegations) is expected to be held by Lamy  on Thursday and a final formal TNC meeting is to take place on Friday for  Members to wrap up the exercise and voice their views.

In his opening statement at the TNC on Monday, Lamy had said that at the  TNC meeting on Friday, he will also provide Members with his impressions  of the week's activities, and expressed hope that Members "will  collectively get a sense of gaps remaining, the size of these gaps and the  dynamic with which to address them."

He further expressed hope that "on the basis of our exchange of views on  Friday, we will be able to send a strong signal to the outside world and  focus the political energy that is needed to move the Round into the  concluding phase." (See SUNS #6889 dated 23 March 2010.)

On Tuesday, the G90 group of developing countries in the WTO held  consultations with the Director-General.

The G90 comprises the African Group, the African, Caribbean and Pacific  Group (ACP) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

According to a participant in the consultations, the meeting was about an  exchange of views on the substance and process of the stocktaking  exercise.

It was also an opportunity for the G90 to register its specific concerns,  namely, on the centrality of the development dimension in the negotiations  and ensuring that the multilateral process is maintained.

The G90 also called for an early harvest on cotton, duty-free quota-free  market access for LDC products and a services waiver for the LDCs, said  the trade diplomat.

Also on Tuesday, the G20 group of developing countries in the agriculture  negotiations held its own internal coordination meeting in order to get  its members' views on what they can expect from the stocktaking exercise  and the way forward.

According to a developing-country trade diplomat who attended the meeting,  one assessment is that is there anything the G20 can do to help foster the  Doha negotiations towards conclusion. The problems have been identified,  but it is not sure how to get out of these problems, the trade diplomat  told SUNS.

The trade diplomat also noted that the G33 group of developing countries  in the agriculture negotiations held its consultations last week and had  made a statement at the formal meeting of the TNC on Monday. So far, he  did not expect the G33 to hold its own meeting this week.

In its statement at the formal TNC meeting on Monday, the G33 said that  the stocktaking provides the opportunity to renew Members' commitment to  the development objectives of the Round and generate new political  momentum to conclude the Round that delivers the development dividends it  promised in Doha in 2001 and Hong Kong-China in 2005.

The G33 further said that the developing countries, especially the  less-developed among them, stand to gain from a successful conclusion of  the Round that is faithful to its development mandate. The conclusion of  the Round, therefore, is most imperative. It has to result in enhancement  of the role of the WTO in advancing the development goals of developing  countries and make its provisions of special and differential treatment  (S&D) operational.

In agriculture, the Doha Round must fulfill its mandate requiring that the  S&D provisions be operationally effective to enable developing countries  to adequately take into account their food security, livelihood security  and rural development needs, the G33 told the formal TNC meeting on  Monday.

It reiterated that while the agriculture Chair has been rightly focusing  on the bracketed and annotated portions in the Rev. 4 text (draft  modalities text), there are other unresolved issues in the text which  still remain to be negotiated.

"It is our expectation that this path of intensive technical consultations  on SSM is commensurately matched by parallel intensified work in other  areas of the Round where gaps remain. SSM is just one of many other  pending issues in the draft Agriculture Modalities," said the G33.

"We would therefore want to see that the Stocktaking exercise conclude  with the nomination of all the pending issues that Members want to further  address," it stressed.

Meanwhile, the European Union hosted a dinner on Monday evening with some  14 delegations.

Asked about this meeting, a developing-country trade diplomat told SUNS  that the US at the moment is not in a position to engage. He observed that  Michael Punke, the US ambassador-designate to the WTO, is only an observer  (at the WTO meetings) and is not allowed to speak for the US.

(Mr Punke's confirmation remains blocked in the US Senate. Meanwhile,  media reports have cited the European Union's new trade commissioner Karel  de Gucht as saying that the first move has to come from the US. He  complained that the US is being silent on making an opening and saying  what it wants. According to the media reports, speaking at the London  School of Economics on Monday, De Gucht said that the EU was not  responsible for the current situation, and that it cannot go any further  in terms of what it has already put on the table on agriculture in 2008.)

The trade diplomat said that the US is in a state of disarray on trade  policy and that there is no clear answer on how they should be engaged.

As to concluding the Doha Round by 2010, the trade diplomat was of the  view that it could not be done this year, by any stretch of the  imagination.

Another developing-country trade diplomat told SUNS that the process is  now far beyond reach.

Without the US on board, noting much can be done, he remarked, adding that whoever is engaging on the US side has no political clout. +