TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (July10/09)
19 July 2010
Third World Network

Members urged to submit data, as talks take a pause
Published in SUNS #6965 dated 14 July 2010 

Geneva, 13 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- The chair of the agriculture negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) has urged Members to use the upcoming August to mid-September summer break to provide the necessary information in order for the Secretariat to compile data that will eventually become part of the modalities.

The urging by chairperson Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand came at an informal open-ended meeting of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture on 9 July, which capped the four days of talks beginning 6 July.

The open-ended informal meeting of the Special Session on 6 July heard a presentation by the G20 on its position concerning the work on templates (see TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues, July10/06 dated 12 July 2010).

In what trade officials said is the last meeting of the Special Session before the annual summer recess at the WTO (and other UN bodies in Geneva), the Chair also informed Members that before the pause in the negotiations, he would tell them his plans for the period after the recess.

According to trade officials, the informal meeting also marked the end of a year of work on data and templates (blank forms) for Members to lay out their final commitments arising out of the Doha Round of trade negotiations, and accompanying data.

Ambassador Walker also reported on his consultations with some Members on two areas of substance in the negotiations: the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) and tariff simplification.

There was however no breakthrough on either of these issues, said trade officials.

A number of delegations also reiterated their concerns over some issues at the informal meeting.

On the issue of the needed information, trade officials said that the information that the Secretariat has requested includes values of agricultural production, which will partly determine the limits that Members have committed to on overall trade-distorting domestic support (Amber Box, Blue Box and de minimis).

(Members have agreed that the value-of-production data will be annexed to the modalities).

The Chair reported that nearly all Members that were required to submit the data have done so, but much of it is still preliminary, and thus need to be checked. One Member has not, and another is missing data for some years, he said.

According to trade officials, less complete are data on values of production for individual products, and the ad valorem (percentages of the price) equivalents of tariffs that are expressed on other forms, as well as the conversion from the 1996 version of the World Customs Organization's Harmonized System of defining products in detail, to the 2002 version.

Norway reported on the consultations among Members on the work on values of production (Norway has taken over from South Africa as coordinator of these consultations).

On the question of substance, a number of room documents (from the G33, and from Australia and Canada) have been circulated on the issue of the SSM.

The Chair reported that although more analyses could be submitted, the negotiators felt that the discussion should soon turn to "problem solving", i. e., discussing how to deal with aspects of the SSM that are still unresolved.

On the issue of tariff simplification, Ambassador Walker said that consultations had not progressed very far, but some Members said that they would work on the provisions in the December 2008 draft modalities text and other possibilities in papers attached to the draft.

Argentina said that it could not accept either version because they would both result in higher "ad valorem" duties (percentages of the price) than the present level.

According to trade officials, the G10 (Switzerland speaking) reiterated that its Members want to continue to negotiate based on the December 2008 draft text, and that the balance in the draft should not be altered, since the group has already yielded its position in many areas.

The group also cautioned against consultations in small meetings where the group was not represented.

The Recently Acceded Members (Chinese Taipei speaking) called for work to sort out the ambiguous parts of the December 2008 draft text, particularly those affecting the group. They also warned against upsetting the provisions that concern them that have already been "stabilized". They said that this would be "unacceptable".

According to trade officials, Argentina and India also reiterated their calls for work on clearing up ambiguities and other issues related to substance not being delayed while Members focus on the more technical tasks of preparing data and templates. +