Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr12/05)
3 April 2012
Third World Network
Agriculture, TRIPS chairs to consult on way forward
Published in SUNS #7339 dated 28 March 2012
Geneva, 27 Mar (Kanaga Raja) - The chairs of the Special Sessions of
the Agriculture Committee and the TRIPS Council are to hold consultations
with the membership in an effort to move the negotiations forward in
both these bodies.
The Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture held an informal
open-ended meeting on 22 March, while the Special Session of the TRIPS
Council, where negotiations on setting up a multilateral register for
geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits are taking place,
held a formal meeting on 23 March.
Both negotiating groups are meeting for the first time since the eighth
ministerial conference (MC8) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) concluded
According to trade officials, at the informal meeting on agriculture
on 22 March, members promised to examine new approaches (in line with
the call from ministers at MC8 for a change in approach to move the
stalled Doha talks forward) that might help move forward the agriculture
The Chair of the agriculture talks, Ambassador John Adank of New Zealand,
said: "My sense is that overall we are still at the stage of clarifying
where things are - with the consultations to date and today's discussions
being an important contribution to that - before we determine where
that takes us. We need to listen carefully to each other."
At the informal meeting, which was called in order for the Chair to
report on his consultations and for members to voice their views, the
Chair said that members had told him that the search for a new approach
would have to observe some conditions.
Some focused on subjects that concern them, and some warned against
backward steps from what has already been achieved in the talks, the
According to trade officials, the Chair further said that differences
of opinion include which subjects might be agreed ahead of a comprehensive
deal (the so-called "early harvest") and whether any political
decisions can be taken in the present climate.
Ambassador Adank urged negotiators to continue to talk to each other
so that they can understand each other's positions. He said that he
would also keep in close contact with them.
"I will continue to consult with members, and to report on further
developments," the Chair concluded. "I will not at this stage
suggest a timing for a further open-ended informal [meeting], but will
consult in due course on when this might be useful to schedule."
According to trade officials, during the discussion, some members (including
Brazil for the G-20) said that their groups will continue to test ideas
and present the results at the next meeting.
Some members were of the view that export competition - export subsidies
and the parallel issues of disciplines on export credit, food aid and
state trading enterprises - is ripe for an early agreement, including
the declaration at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in 2005 on eliminating
the subsidies by 2013.
According to trade officials, other members (including the EU) said
that the export competition commitment was always tied to an agreement
in all areas in agriculture as well as on geographical indications in
Some other members (including the G-33 and other developing countries)
said that whatever is agreed has to strike a balance between all three
"pillars" in the negotiations, namely, market access, domestic
support and export competition.
Several members said that agriculture remains central to the whole Doha
According to trade officials, all said that they are committed to working
with each other and with the chairperson to find a way forward.
Meanwhile, at the formal meeting of the Special Session of the TRIPS
Council on 23 March, members elected Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah
of Nigeria as their new Chair.
According to trade officials, the Chair said that he will consult with
members on how to proceed under the new instructions provided by ministers
at the December 2011 eighth ministerial conference.
(At the last meeting of the Special Session back in March last year,
a complete draft text for setting up a multilateral register for GIs
for wines and spirits emerged, but one that contained some 208 pieces
of text in square brackets, denoting a lack of agreement. See SUNS #7102
dated 7 March 2011.)
"I [...] intend to initiate, in the coming weeks, a process of
informal consultations with the delegations, both individually and in
groups, in order to determine how best we may operationalize those elements
of the outcome of [the Ministerial Conference] that relate to our work,"
the Chair told the membership on 23 March.
According to trade officials, the Chair said that he will report back
to the membership when the consultations are completed.
In the short 15-minute meeting, Chile (for the "Joint Proposal"
group) and the European Union said that they or the groups they represent
are prepared to work with the Chair to find a way forward, under what
they interpret as the mandate to set up a register that would "facilitate"
the protection of geographical indications.
According to trade officials, the Joint Proposal group however said
that it would not be prepared to discuss work outside the mandate. It
reiterated that the system must apply only to wines and spirits, be
voluntary, create no new legal obligations, respect "territoriality"
and be simple and transparent to use.
(The "Joint Proposal" group is the sponsor of document TN/IP/W/10/Rev.3
and comprises Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican
Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Korea, Mexico,
New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Chinese Taipei, South Africa and the
United States. The "W/52" group is the sponsor of proposal
TN/C/W/52 and numbers over 100 members including the European Union,
Switzerland, India, Brazil and China.)
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