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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jun11/01)
2 June 2011
Third World Network
 

On 31 May 2011 there was an informal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting at the WTO in Geneva. The discussion focused on what should be in an early harvest/Doha-lite/mini-package of deliverables to be agreed at the 15-17 December 2011 WTO Ministerial meeting in Geneva.

Most countries agreed such an early harvest should be on least developed country (LDC) issues. At this TNC, the LDC Group said these early harvest issues should be duty free quota free (DFQF) market access, simplified rules of origin, cotton and the LDC services waiver.

However the USA is resisting these LDC issues being in the early harvest (see http://geneva.usmission.gov/2011/05/31/ambassador-punkes-remarks-at-the-wto-tnc/) and some other countries also want other issues to be added to the early harvest package. (According to http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news11_e/tnc_infstat_31may11_e.htm, some of the other issues suggested by some countries for an early harvest package are: trade facilitation [which is likely to increase imports to developing countries more than exports thus worsening their trade balance, cost large amounts of money for developing countries to implement and may result in lost tariff and other revenue for developing countries], provisions on special and differential treatment, export subsidies and other areas of export competition in agriculture, fisheries subsidies, provisions on regional trade agreements [this may only be transparency, not Art XXIV GATT reform], or liberalized trade in environmental goods and services [ie market access for products and services listed by developed countries]. Some have also mentioned a  “standstill” commitment to refrain from raising trade barriers even within countries’ committed limits [ie you can’t raise your applied tariffs to your bound rate. This would hurt developing countries more than developed as developing countries tend to have more water – ie space between their applied and bound rates. It would prevent developing countries from using the remaining  flexibility they have to increase tariffs to raise government revenue, protect farmers from import surges and develop infant industries etc]).

So the fight at the WTO is now about what will be in the early harvest and what is left until later (eg the ‘slow lane’ as WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy explains it: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news11_e/tnc_infstat_31may11_e.htm).

Even if there is an early harvest, it’s still not clear when it will be implemented – presumably some time before the single undertaking of all issues, but unlikely to be within the coming months.

Delegations are now supposed to be consulting their governments in capital, consulting each other and telling Lamy what their positions are on which issues should be in the early harvest. There will be another informal TNC in Geneva on 9 June 2011 when Lamy hopes to have more clarity regarding what are the issues that will be agreed in the December 2011 WTO Ministerial that will take place in Geneva.

Best wishes,
Sanya Smith
Third World Network

 


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