TWN Info Service
on WTO and Trade Issues (June10/04)
South voices views
on Doha process, stresses on December 2008 texts
Geneva, 11 Jun (Kanaga Raja) -- The draft modalities texts of December 2008 remain the basis for the Doha negotiations, and any "horizontal" process has to be balanced across all areas of negotiations and should not be selective to focus only on market access, a number of developing countries insisted Friday at the World Trade Organization (WTO), at an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC).
The comments and stress from developing countries came Friday at the informal TNC that WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his capacity as TNC Chair, had convened, for Members to review and assess the latest developments in the Doha Agenda, and for Lamy to provide an overview of the state-of-play in each of the negotiating groups.
The term "horizontal" process is the current WTO jargon for discussions in small groups involving trade-offs in a number of issues such as services, fisheries subsidies, environmental goods and services, and rules.
Speaking at the TNC
meeting (after Lamy's opening remarks),
According to trade officials, the developing countries - such as Brazil, India, and China - argued that the basis for the Doha negotiations remain the December 2008 texts, and cautioned that any opening of those texts could lead to an unraveling of the carefully-struck compromises, and that this would mean that the developed countries would have to pay more in other areas, notably in the area of trade-distorting domestic support.
According to trade officials, while everyone acknowledged the importance of a horizontal process, it was clear that there are different interpretations of what a horizontal process entailed.
Some took the view that agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) had advanced further than other issues such as services, fisheries subsidies, environmental goods and services or rules. The feeling among some Members is that they should have a negotiation involving possible trade-offs in these issues.
According to trade
officials, there was another substantial group of countries including
It's clear at this moment that there is enough difference of opinion that the "horizontal process" cannot commence yet, said trade officials.
Speaking at the informal TNC meeting, Lamy acknowledged that Members are not yet at a stage when they can engage into a horizontal give-and-take on the issues which remain open.
Another area of disagreement that emerged during the discussions at the informal TNC meeting was the question of an early harvest for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) - the issues of cotton, duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access for LDC products, a simplified rules of origin and a waiver for LDCs in services. The difference of opinion is whether this can be taken out of the Single Undertaking, said trade officials.
In his remarks on process at the informal TNC meeting, Lamy said that the Chairs will continue the consultations in their respective negotiating groups. Groups of Members in variable geometry and bilateral contacts should continue on specific areas as well as horizontally, he suggested.
"The challenge here," Lamy said, "is that you engage into a serious dialogue. That you all reach out beyond your usual constituencies and groups, beyond your usual comfort zone and bring back momentum or output to the membership as a whole in the negotiating groups, as has been done in the case of trade facilitation. Some of you are doing it. All of you need to do it for it to work."
"My sense is that we are not yet at a stage when we can engage into a horizontal give and take on the issues which remain open. For this to happen, we need all these issues to be at the same level of technical maturity and this is not the case yet. We need to keep working to 'line the field of play' on all topics. But let me reassure you that when the moment comes, any horizontal exercise under my responsibility will need to comprise all topics outstanding. There will not be such thing as selective horizontally.'"
On the issue of substance, the Director-General said that "I believe that you are all looking for an extra quantum in these negotiations - by which I mean a combination of ambition and balance for ALL participants, combining what is already on the table and what needs to be there for a conclusion, in line with the mandates which guide our negotiations."
He added: "If there is one thing which remains crystal clear in all our minds it is that we cannot, I repeat, cannot have an ambitious result without overall balance. Such is our challenge - to aim for high ambition while ensuring balance."
Several countries spoke following the report by the Director-General.
The Doha mandate for special and differential treatment will be preserved and is integral to any results of the Doha Round negotiations, said Indonesia, adding that the process of negotiations remains multilateral, inclusive, bottom-up and fully transparent.
It further said that discussions in various configurations, including small groups, bilaterals and plurilaterals, can only be acceptable when they are fed into and brought back to the multilateral formats.
With regard to any
horizontal process, the G33 cautioned Members that such a process would
have to be guided by the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration. "It
has to be balanced across all areas of negotiations and is not selective
with focus only on market access. Further, the varying levels of maturity
of the various issues across the negotiations must be taken into account,"
The G33 urged Members to make every appropriate effort to bridge differences, build on progress made so far and to build up the political capital which is required for concluding the Doha Development Round.
These draft modalities,
The G20 said that it has consistently emphasized the centrality of Agriculture in the Doha Development Agenda. For the G20, it would be inconceivable to attempt any horizontal negotiation without Agriculture as its cornerstone. "We must focus on the key issues that lie at the center of the negotiating impasse. The progress that we achieved since 2001 is not just a matter of quantity, but also of balance."
"We continue to be guided by the agreed notion that this is a Development Round, which must have S&D (special and differential treatment) for developing and least-developed countries as an integral part of any results. If the balance in the 2008 texts can be improved, it must be to the benefit of those countries."
The G20 also reiterated the principles of transparency and inclusiveness. "The whole membership must be involved in any horizontal negotiations, because the whole membership is likely to be affected. We must take collective ownership of the difficult political decisions that lie ahead."
In other words, said
"... we have serious doubts about the possibility of making meaningful advances in areas that, as some have suggested in recent weeks, would be ready for more immediate engagement or that could help the gateway issues, like services, fishery subsidies, environmental goods and services, and others."
Services and environmental
goods and services, in particular, are clearly market access negotiations,
"Any attempt at
changing the level of ambition in the Round would have to start by agriculture
in the developed countries,"
To these arguments,
These include that:
-- "We had all
agreed to redress the deep imbalances that still characterized the global
trading system against developing countries in the
-- "We had also all agreed that agricultural trade, that had been neglected for over 50 years in the GATT, would be the focus of this round and the driver of the level of ambition in all other areas of the round. Developed countries were to lead by opening their markets and reducing their trade distorting subsidies.
-- "We had all agreed that in NAMA, the products of interest to developing countries would be prioritized. The contributions of developing countries would be based on the principle of less than full reciprocity and special and differential treatment."
South Africa's experience in the round thus far has been that: The level of ambition in agriculture has been going down as developed countries have demanded more and more flexibilities to protect their sensitive sectors; the level of ambition in NAMA on the other hand has been going up as developing countries have been under continuous pressure to reduce their tariffs through the use of the much more onerous Swiss Formula.
According to South Africa, there are also "some major developed countries that now argue that the level of ambition contained in the July 2008 texts are too low and that what is needed now is to 'review these texts and to raise the level of ambition across the board.'"
The rallying call by
these countries to "raise the level of ambition" is therefore
not convincing, nor is it credible, said
An inordinate delay
in the Doha Round is something that is adversely affecting the poorest
and weakest countries the most, and that there are currently LDC issues
that are ripe for harvest. By failing to agree on these issues, the
negotiations are not permitting these benefits to accrue to people who
represent 12% of the world population, but only 1% of its trade, said
On behalf of itself,
"Secondly, we do not believe that phrases such as 'added quantum' are helpful in our efforts to conclude the Round at an early date. In our view, they only tend to feed unrealistic and unrealizable expectations of some. We believe there is already an ambitious and balanced set of market access commitments on the table. Obviously, some adjustments at the margins are necessary to conclude the negotiations. In other areas, there is more work to be done. Our efforts have to remain focused on finding the political consensus to complete this work. Anything which has the effect of raising the goal posts or disturbing the delicate balance we have achieved in the negotiations so far, should be avoided."
If at all there is
a justification for an added quantum, it is for such countries, said
Fourthly, on the issue
of horizontal negotiations,
"You cannot solve the SSM without such a discussion. As far as a process across the negotiating areas is concerned, we cannot conceive of such a process without a significant discussion on distortions in agriculture, which is at the core of the Round. Market access issues would need to be balanced by a serious discussion on disciplines in various areas like Services, anti dumping, TRIPS etc. For instance, for many of us, an outcome on the Disclosure issue in patent applications is essential for a balanced outcome. A horizontal process must address such concerns."
"The fifth issue,
I would like to refer to is the demand by at least one Member for additional
contributions to be made by the so-called 'advanced developing countries'.
This is a new phrase in the
Hong Kong-China said that there needs to be work done on all fronts and through a variety of different formats, as called for in the March stocktaking. There is need for an ambitious outcome. In some areas that are not clearly defined, more work needs to be done in the negotiating groups to gain more clarity.
Chinese Taipei, on behalf of the Recently Acceded Members (RAMs), said that a transparent and inclusive process is vital. The December 2008 texts reflect the overall balance and should be preserved.