TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar11/01)
Little substantive progress spurs calls for
Geneva, 23 Feb (Kanaga Raja) -- There is need for a major acceleration of efforts at all levels, and for the output of these efforts to urgently move up a level, to real progress on key issues of substance in the Doha negotiations, World Trade Organization (WTO) head Pascal Lamy said Tuesday, in what he called a "serious warning" to the membership.
Lamy's message came at a meeting of the WTO General Council on 22 February, under the agenda item of report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC).
The General Council also approved a new slate of chairpersons for the various WTO bodies (see SUNS #7094 dated 23 February 2010).
The warning on the need to accelerate the Doha talks came in the context of the tight roadmap that members have set for themselves to avail of the so-called "window of opportunity" to conclude the ten-year-old Doha Round of trade negotiations this year.
The roadmap involves Chairs of the negotiating
groups producing texts in all areas of the negotiations by Easter (Easter
this year falls on 22-25 April), an outline
In his report to the General Council, as chair of the TNC, Director-General Lamy complained that the current process, at each and every level, remains too slow.
Recalling that members have agreed on a modus operandi for the current process, namely, to produce elements of progress that Chairs of the negotiating groups can capture in texts, and to do so urgently, Lamy issued a serious warning that a major acceleration at all levels - multilaterally, plurilaterally and bilaterally - is needed in order to make this possible.
Furthermore, said Lamy, the output of all these processes needs to urgently move up a level, to real progress on key issues of substance. "The window of opportunity is still there, but it is narrowing every day," he further warned.
The TNC Chair has also called for an informal TNC meeting on 8 March for members to collectively evaluate the state-of-play across the board. (See below for his report to the General Council).
Speaking at the General Council after Lamy's report,
Ambassador Eduardo Munoz Gomez of
Trade officials said that one of the themes that emerged in the interventions of delegations at the General Council meeting was of a state of concern and urgency. Members acknowledged that while progress has been made, they are not moving fast enough and that they are running out of time.
Several delegations spoke of the need for a catalyst or some kind of spark that might move the negotiations into a higher gear, said trade officials.
Trade officials noted that the calculation that has been made by the ambassadors in Geneva is that if the round is to be concluded in 2011, there is need to have some kind of agreement on modalities-plus by the summer break, and that this would require texts that will advance the negotiations sufficiently in all areas by Easter. There is need to intensify and accelerate this process.
Trade officials also said that a number of delegations said that the onus is now on the "G11" (a group comprising Argentina, Brazil, China, the European Union, Australia, Canada, Mauritius, India, Japan, South Africa and the US), which met last week and plans to meet again in March.
There was also a great deal of frustration voiced
by several delegations that are outside the G11 grouping. These included
A developing-country trade diplomat told SUNS
that the European Union and the
"They think that this is still the Uruguay Round," the trade diplomat quipped.
Noting that nothing has happened in terms of movement
on substance in the key areas of agriculture and NAMA, the trade diplomat
thought that if this continues, the present time-lines (for revised
texts in April and a
In his report at the General Council meeting, Lamy recalled that at the informal TNC of 2 February (see SUNS #7081 dated 4 February 2011), delegations had expressed wide support for the roadmap -- texts in all areas by around Easter, a comprehensive package by July and finalization by the end of the year.
In this context, he said that a number of delegations re-emphasized that progress should build on what had already been achieved and that the acquis should not be unravelled. Delegations also highlighted specific areas of importance they wished to see advance in this end-game phase.
Several participants stressed the importance of transparency and inclusiveness in the processes ahead and a number also emphasized the importance of respecting the development mandate of the Round, he added.
As far as the bilateral and plurilateral discussions among senior officials which have taken place over the past couple of weeks, the TNC Chair understood that they have been constructive and have explored specific substantive issues in a number of key areas, including flexibilities and how to ensure overall balance across issues. He also understood that participants in these talks have emphasized the importance of the multilateral process.
"Although it is still early, I am encouraged by the direction and nature of these talks and I urge the participants to keep up the pressure, push harder and dig deeper in their efforts to find the common ground necessary to put the multilateral pen to paper."
"It is clear from the level of activity planned in the various Negotiating Groups that we all face some intense and challenging weeks ahead. This includes collectively facing up to the fact that our current process - at each and every level - remains too slow," stressed Lamy.
"Throughout the Negotiating Groups we keep hearing that some delegations 'have no instructions' and that ‘we still have time'. Such statements are not only unhelpful, they fail to respect the tremendous day-to-day efforts by our NG (negotiating group) Chairs to move the process forward," said the TNC Chair.
"In the Negotiating Groups, we hear that 'we will move when the plurilaterals move,' and in the plurilaterals, we hear that 'we will move when the bilaterals move' and, finally, in the bilaterals, we hear that 'I will move when the other does'. Ultimately, of course, this means that you are waiting for yourselves to move! I believe we will all agree that this vicious circle has to be broken!"
At this point, said Lamy, "I believe we need to collectively recall that we have agreed on a modus operandi for the current process, namely, to produce elements of progress that Chairs can capture in texts, and to do so urgently. I must issue a serious warning that a major acceleration at all levels - multilaterally, plurilaterally and bilaterally - is needed in order to make this possible."
"Furthermore, the output of all these processes needs to urgently move up a level, to real progress on key issues of substance. The window of opportunity is still there, but it is narrowing every day," he added.
A number of delegations spoke following the report by the TNC Chair. According to trade officials, some delegations asked for their statements made at the informal TNC meeting on 2 February to be read into the record of the General Council meeting.
According to trade officials,
The development dimension must be at the heart of the negotiations, it said, adding that this means that the industrial countries have to accept that there will be asymmetry in the outcome vis-a-vis the large emerging countries.
The Dominican Republic said that this also means excluding the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) from more commitments, flexibility for developing countries in agriculture and NAMA modalities as well as other areas, that small and vulnerable economies are accorded their own sense of special and differential treatment, and having aid for trade.
Pointing out that the January-March period will be crucial, it said that the reality is that members cannot be sure of making it to the next step (of final give-and-takes) unless they succeed during this period of time.
Chinese Taipei, on behalf of the Recently Acceded Members (RAMs), said that it was encouraged by signs of progress but substantive progress has not yet been made. It shared the sense of urgency and that time might be running out. If members do not turn this into concrete negotiating actions, the window of opportunity is narrowing everyday.
Members need to keep working to ensure that they
have a chance to conclude the negotiations this year. It is important
that the development dimension as well as the
On behalf of the Association of South-East Asian
While expressing hope that these processes can
According to trade officials,
It claimed that it has seen some unprecedented situations including those in which large emerging countries refuse to engage in dialogue with medium-sized developing countries.
It proposed that an urgent message be sent that "we are in difficulty with the Doha Round". The Director-General should immediately send the message (to trade ministers) on the state of the negotiations.
On the issue of substance,
While it is not opposed to this,
It said that there are some encouraging signs
and some progress since the G20 summit in
There is need for decisions to be taken soon with
respect to market access in agriculture, NAMA and services. All members
must show the necessary flexibility and not just one or two players.
The March 8 TNC meeting will be a very important one. It could be useful
to have a stocktaking meeting at the end of March, said
Barbados, on behalf of the Small Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), said that consideration must be given to the impact of the agriculture and NAMA modalities on SVEs, and due attention should be paid to their concerns and interests. Gains for SVEs need to be protected and there can be no backtracking.
The question of food security has made agriculture
an even more important plank in the Doha Development Agenda. This means
greater attention to the special safeguard mechanism for SVEs, and that
there must be special and differential treatment in respect of fisheries
This is not the way the exercise should be carried
out, it said, endorsing the calls of
Hong Kong-China said that members are running
out of time.
The European Union said that the good news was that the discussions of the senior officials (in the G11) last week were positive and contributed to good atmospherics and a higher degree of commitment to the negotiations, as well as a genuine willingness to conclude the round.
However, it said that the good atmospherics have not translated to corresponding progress on substance. "We are not seeing the give-and-takes that are required and that leaders had asked for".
It said that given the looming Easter deadline, there is need for progress from the bilateral and plurilateral meetings. On how to generate this, the EU said that there is need for more ambition, and in order to find that, there is need to drill down and look for specifics.
It said that there is also need for all issues to advance in parallel, and for a horizontal approach to allow for tradeoffs. There is further need for a "variable geometry" approach and flexibility to use as many formulations as possible. There is also need to ensure that specific issues receive top-down guidance from senior officials and ambassadors, and a need to further intensify the work, or the texts will be difficult, the EU said.
Small but important steps were taken in the last
week. There is need to use the G11 to do more horizontal work, so that
you can weave together the work in different silos. It is also a way
to bring together the senior officials, said the
Pointing out that the G11 is not more important
than other ingredients, the
In the area of sectorals (under NAMA) and services,
progress is lagging behind, said the