TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb11/14)
Talks have yielded little that is new, laments
Geneva, 18 Feb (Kanaga Raja) -- The almost two weeks of meetings and consultations have produced little that is new, the Chair of the agriculture negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) has said.
"We are losing one day every day," Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand, the Chair of the Special Session of the Agriculture Committee, warned delegations at an informal meeting of the full membership on 17 February, which capped the almost two weeks of negotiations.
Members are facing the targets of a revised draft
modalities text in agriculture by 21 April (before the Easter break),
reaching agreement on texts in all other areas of the
In reporting to the membership, the Chair said that in almost two weeks of meetings and consultations, he has heard little that is "audibly" new, although delegations sent a few signals of movement in some areas.
According to trade officials, the Chair compared the draft modalities text to an aeroplane and the time left until 21 April to a runway.
"We're looking to land the plane on the runway." The task is "to get the plane on that runway and stopped before it [the runway] ends," he said. The plane should fly well with "bits and pieces of it not in danger of falling apart," he added.
Ambassador Walker briefed the full membership on the consultations that he had held the previous week with a representative group of 38 Members (in Room E at the WTO).
He said that the group went through the "three pillars" of the agriculture negotiations, namely, domestic support, market access, and export subsidies and other issues related to export competition.
In each case, said trade officials, the consultations covered "bracketed or otherwise annotated" substance in the present draft modalities text of December 2008 and accompanying papers, clarification of unclear parts of the present draft text, and questions about data and other issues.
On the issue of substance, the Chair said that the "Room E" meetings produced little that was new.
However, he said that he was aware that Members were working among themselves on some subjects, including tariff simplification, the special safeguard mechanism (SSM), and tariff quota creation.
The Chair further said that Members reported that they were working on clarification and data with some common understandings evolving. But Members had little to say on "other issues", which he described as "a good thing".
More generally, trade officials said that the Chair also heard a number of delegations voicing the view that agriculture is no longer an issue that is to be treated in isolation because the question of how ambitious reforms should be is an issue that cuts across several subjects.
Looking ahead, Ambassador Walker said that he will think about different views of Members on whether the next round of agriculture talks should be in the fortnight beginning 7 March or in the week after.
Scheduling meetings may be difficult to avoid clashing with talks in other subjects and might have to be outside standard hours, he added.
The Chair also said that he will remain in close touch with delegations to hear about the work they are undertaking among themselves.
According to trade officials, some delegations said that they were disappointed with the lack of progress in the latest round of talks, which began on 7 February.
Some Members including
According to trade officials, some Members including
Some Members reiterated their concerns that some of the issues that they had raised had not been discussed in depth.
These included the
Trade officials said that
Some delegations including the European Union
According to trade officials,
(The G-11 is a group of key countries that are
meeting outside the WTO. They include
Trade officials said that several Members including
According to trade officials,
Another round of talks is envisaged for mid-March. +