TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May10/13)
29 May 2010
Third World Network

"G19" meets to move forward Doha process
Published in SUNS #6929 dated 25 May 2010

Geneva, 21 May (Kanaga Raja) -- Senior officials and Geneva-based Ambassadors from some nineteen developed and developing countries met on 19-20 May to find a way forward for the Doha Round process.

The two-day meeting took place at the European Union mission here. The EU hosted the first day of talks on Wednesday, while India hosted the talks on Thursday.

The countries in attendance reportedly included the US, the European Union, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Mexico, Japan, Brazil, India, China, Argentina, Indonesia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Mauritius, Egypt, Barbados and Zambia.

The discussions centred around the issues of the level of ambition in the Doha Round, the balance in respect of market access across the various negotiating areas, as well as possible landing zones, according to sources close to the discussions.

Reportedly, there were no discussions on the substantive issues.

[The term "landing zone" was used in 2004, when the General Council decided on the "July framework" compromise for the Doha negotiations - after the 2003 collapse of the talks at the Cancun ministerial. The then Indian Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr. Kamal Nath, who with Brazil's Celso Amorim, found a way to resume the talks, used the term in briefings. Trade observers noted the irony that six years later, the WTO leadership and the two major entities (the US and EU), having tried to obfuscate for six years the 2004 framework decisions and their commitments (through informal ministerial meetings and mini-ministerial meetings), they are still seeking at the WTO "possible landing zones".]

At the end of the two-day meeting, the 19 countries reportedly agreed to continue their discussion in various formats and configurations, including bilateral meetings, as well as the current Chair-led negotiating group process.

While the participants reportedly agreed not to institutionalize the "G19" process, they however agreed to continue to use this grouping for further talks.

At the meeting, the US reportedly raised the issue of a new level of ambition in the Doha talks.

(At a media briefing on 10 May, the new US Ambassador to the WTO, Mr Michael Punke, who was present at the G19 meeting, said that there was a need to improve the level of ambition and balance in the Doha Round. He also suggested that the success or failure of the Doha Round depends on whether the advanced developing economies such as India, China and Brazil are ready to accept the responsibility and leadership that goes along with their new position in the global economy. See SUNS #6922 dated 11 May 2010.)

The US call for a new level of ambition and a new landing zone triggered a response from other participants.

Almost all of them reportedly were of the view that they should start from what was already on the table.

The US also reportedly said that it is ready and has the mandate to negotiate, but this was apparently challenged by some participants who noted that the US does not have Trade Promotion Authority and that any Doha outcome may not be endorsed by Congress.

The US also reportedly said that the draft modalities now on the table does not meet its expectations.

(According to a news report in the Washington Trade Daily of 21 May, the participants reportedly reached an understanding to identify the landing zone for the Doha negotiations based on the July 2008 package, and that the US will be outlining its level of ambition and balance for the Doha talks.) +