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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Sept14/10)
26 September 2014
Third World Network
 

No consensus on how to take forward agriculture work
Published in SUNS #7881 dated 25 September 2014
 
Geneva, 24 Sep (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the Special Session of the WTO Agriculture Committee, at the conclusion of an informal open-ended meeting on Tuesday, said that there was no consensus among the members on how to take the work forward in the Committee.
 
According to trade officials, there was continued differences among members on how to proceed with the work on agriculture under the Bali decisions and in the Doha Round negotiations.
 
A meeting of the General Council that was held on 25 July to discuss the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) was suspended on account of a lack of consensus on the Protocol of Amendment that, if adopted, would have brought into legal effect the TFA.
 
At that meeting, India had made a strong statement wherein it had said that the TFA must be implemented only as part of a single undertaking including the permanent solution on food security. India had received support from Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela, who had said that they will have difficulty joining a consensus on the Protocol while no progress has been made on the areas of interest to developing countries.
 
Just a couple of hours or so before the 31 July midnight deadline for the adoption of the Protocol was to pass, an informal TNC meeting was held, at which the Director-General had reported that at present "there is no workable solution on the table" and that he did not have any indication that one will be forthcoming.
 
As a result, the General Council agenda item of report by the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation was closed without further action and the General Council meeting, suspended on 25 July, was formally closed without a protocol being adopted (see SUNS #7856 dated 4 August 2014).
 
In his concluding remarks at the informal agriculture meeting on Tuesday, the Chair of the Special Session, Ambassador John Adank of New Zealand, said: "Taking all of these views into account, my general conclusion as of now, is that in the absence of a solution to the current impasse, there is no consensus on how work can be taken forward in this Committee."
 
In his opening statement at the meeting, Ambassador Adank said that the meeting provided a further opportunity to the Members to take stock of their positions concerning the way ahead for the negotiations and the work programme mandated at Bali.
 
He then proceeded to provide a short report of where members stood just before the summer break as well as on developments since then.
 
Noting that the Special Session does not exist in isolation from the broader work on Doha and Bali follow-up, the Chair said that at the end of July, Members failed to meet the deadline set by Ministers in Bali for the protocol on the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
 
It would appear from reactions both in the lead up to and since July that this has a broader impact on work within this and other bodies tasked with Bali and Doha follow-up, he added.
 
The Chair recalled that in a message on 2 September 2014, Director-General Roberto Azevedo highlighted the need to re-engage quickly to discuss the situation with a view to finding solutions to the implementation of the Bali outcomes.
 
The D-G had called on the relevant Chairpersons to immediately begin consulting with Members on those issues so that he could report on the outcome of these consultations at a TNC meeting latest in early October.
 
"So that is what I have been doing now as well as in bilateral meetings with a range of delegations who were able to meet with me in recent days," said Ambassador Adank.
 
According to trade officials, at the informal meeting, some 18 countries including Australia, Japan, Paraguay, the European Union, Canada, the United States and Hong Kong-China voiced objections to the holding up of the trade facilitation text despite agreement at Bali for its adoption by 31 July.
 
Some reiterated the view that this amounted to a betrayal of trust and had made it impossible to engage in further work in good faith, particularly as the negotiations on trade facilitation had concluded in Bali and what was left was the technical task of cleaning up the text by July, said trade officials.
 
Some called for the text to be adopted within the next few days, while others called for countries to stick to their commitments with regards to all the Bali decisions, including the deadlines that they contain.
 
Trade officials said that some other countries called for the impasse to be resolved quickly. Some including the G-33, the Philippines, China and El Salvador said that a work programme to conclude the Doha Round should be agreed by the end of the year.
 
According to trade officials, India reiterated its position that adopting the trade facilitation text should be delayed until the end of the year and for a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes to be also agreed by then.
 
India referred to a statement that it had made at a Heads of Delegation (HOD) meeting on 15 September.
 
[At that informal HOD meeting, according to those present at the meeting, India's Anjali Prasad had reiterated India's remarks at the General Council on 25 July, namely that there must be a postponement of the adoption of the Protocol of Amendment on the TFA until a permanent solution is found on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes.
 
[India told the HOD, amongst others, that it was looking for an accelerated process as well as a dedicated mechanism to discuss and develop the permanent solution on food security and to conclude this by the end of the year, adding that there are already some G-33 proposals on the table, including one that was tabled this July. (See SUNS #7876 dated 18 September 2014).]
 
At the informal agriculture meeting on Tuesday, trade officials said that India countered the charge of bad faith, saying that its accusers were also showing bad faith by rejecting the December 2008 draft deal in agriculture, which is the one currently on the table and is in turn based on the 2004 framework agreement.
 
According to trade officials, the Least Developed Countries (represented by Uganda) said that the provisions in the Bali decisions for the LDCs should not be held up by the impasse. The LDCs also called for the work programme to be completed by the end of the year.
 
The G-33 drew attention to its proposals on public stockholding, special products and the special safeguard mechanism.
 
According to trade officials, Argentina stressed that eliminating all forms of export subsidies is becoming more urgent since agricultural prices are falling and pressure to subsidize is increasing.
 
Meanwhile, an Open-Ended Working Group on the FAO/WHO Second International Conference on Nutrition (to take place in Rome from 19-21 November 2014) held a two-day meeting here on 22-23 September, with the finalisation of the draft outcome document and the draft framework for action being among its agenda items.
 
According to one participant attending the Working Group meetings, neither of the two specific issues in the draft framework for action relating to trade had come up yet (for discussion).
 
One issue concerns the WTO's public health exception, wherein the draft framework for action of 8 September states that innovations in nutrition of public health relevance should be covered by WTO's public health exception to its intellectual property rights agreement.
 
The other issue relates to the Doha Round whereby the draft framework for action has recommended accelerating efforts to conclude and implement the Doha Development Round of WTO multilateral trade negotiations by amending the Agreement on Agriculture to support food security and nutrition.
 
According to the participant, talks are expected to continue at a three-day meeting of the Working Group to be held in Rome from 10 October.

 


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