TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May10/04)
10 May 2010
Third World Network

Talks to resume after March Doha stocktaking
Published in SUNS #6918 dated 5 May 2010

Geneva, 4 May (Kanaga Raja) -- The chair of the agriculture negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) informed delegations on Monday that he intends to adapt his plans for the negotiations later this month, in order to take into account suggestions from a number of delegations on how the talks should proceed.

The open-ended informal meeting of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture held on Monday was the first time that delegations had met to discuss agriculture issues since the 22-26 March Doha Round stocktaking exercise.

According to trade officials, the Chair, Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand, had previously announced that during the week of 17 May, he intends to conduct large meetings and smaller consultations for Members to discuss the issue of templates and data, as well as issues that the Chair describes as "bracketed and otherwise annotated" in the 2008 draft modalities text.

At the informal meeting on Monday, which trade officials said only lasted half an hour, Members made a number of suggestions on the various issues that they would like to discuss, and how the work on the "templates" could be fine-tuned.

According to trade officials, India was among some of the countries arguing that the present negotiations should include additional questions. It reiterated its call for Members to sort out ambiguities and other questions that require political interpretation in the current draft text.

Argentina also reiterated its call for more work to be undertaken to make the draft text less ambiguous and more precise, and on the legal amendments to the Agriculture Agreement that will eventually be needed.

According to trade officials, the Cairns Group (Australia speaking), said that the work on templates and data, which began in September 2009, should continue in the meetings of the full membership, so that all Members can participate.

The Group also said that all proposed templates and tables should be recognized as "simply drafts" whose "final form can be settled only once final modalities are agreed".

The Group suggested fine-tuning the work in order to make it easier to follow: each stage should start with an overview before going into details, so that Members know where the work is heading, and delegations should be given more time between meetings to consider what has been discussed, consult among themselves, and prepare for the next meetings.

According to trade officials, Brazil said that the technical work on templates and data should be treated as technically neutral without making any assumptions about political decisions that might affect the templates, for example, whether the special agricultural safeguard (SSG) will continue to exist or not.

The European Union shared the view of the Cairns Group in that Members need to know where the work is heading. The EU said that it has prepared a "road map" for the work on market access.

Ambassador Walker urged delegations to circulate their ideas on a "road map" before the next meeting in the week of 17 May. +