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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct14/07)
24 October 2014
Third World Network
 

WTO D-G begins consultations, HOD meet set for 31 October
Published in SUNS #7900 dated 23 October 2014
 
Geneva, 22 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- The WTO Director-General has announced that he would begin consultations on the current impasse over the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes and the adoption of the Protocol of Amendment on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) as well as on the future of the other Bali decisions and the post-Bali work programme.
 
At a meeting of the General Council on Tuesday, D-G Roberto Azevedo informed members that the consultation process that he had outlined at a formal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) on 16 October will start on 22 October.
 
Speaking under the agenda item of report by the Chairman of the TNC, Azevedo said that he will be holding a series of meetings in a range of different configurations, and that a Heads of Delegation (HOD) meeting has been planned for 31 October.
 
As to the content of the discussion, at the formal meeting of the TNC on 16 October, he had suggested four questions for the members to try to answer: What should we do with the decisions on Trade Facilitation and public stockholding? What should we do with the other Bali decisions, including the LDC package? How should we respond to the Ministerial mandate to develop a work program on the post-Bali agenda? And how do we see the future of the negotiating pillar of the WTO?
 
Apart from informing members that a solution for the impasse had not been found following a period of intense consultations since mid-September, Azevedo had also reported that in the eight weeks that members have until the December General Council meeting, it seemed "very unlikely" that a detailed, precise, modalities-like post-Bali work programme was possible (see SUNS #7897 dated 20 October 2014).
 
In his statement at the General Council meeting on Tuesday, the D-G said that the questions that he had raised at the TNC meeting were intended as a guide to the discussions.
 
"This is going to be a very important conversation," said Azevedo, adding that it was about "the future of the Bali decisions, the future of the post-Bali work program, and the future of the negotiating function itself."
 
"We will continue to work to solve the current impasse, but we also need to establish how we can move forward," the D-G further told the members, noting that while he will be convening meetings, "the substance will be up to you. Whether, and how, we make progress will be in your hands."
 
The D-G also announced that the next Global Review of Aid for Trade will be held from 30 June to 2 July 2015.
 
According to trade officials, the statements of delegations made at the formal TNC meeting on 16 October were put into the General Council record.
 
The Chair of the General Council, Ambassador Jonathan Fried of Canada, also made an intervention under the same agenda item, saying that he would like to highlight "the seriousness of the situation confronting us."
 
According to trade officials, the Chair said that the impasse involving the Agreement on Trade Facilitation and the decision on public stockholding for food security "is having profound implications not only on the work of other bodies in charge of implementing the Bali mandates, which are experiencing a freezing effect of varying degrees, but on the organisation as a whole and the principles it embodies."
 
As announced at the TNC, said Ambassador Fried, this General Council meeting marks the beginning of a period of reflection in which members need to start considering how they collectively see this organisation working in the future, in particular, with respect to its negotiating function.
 
Under a separate agenda item on the date and venue of the tenth session of the Ministerial Conference, trade officials highlighted that two members have offered to host the event, namely, Kenya and Turkey.
 
The General Council Chair reported that he had held three stages of consultations since mid-May and that he had heard from about one third of the membership.
 
According to trade officials, there was support for both members in hosting the event, but that there was also opposition on some elements with respect to each of these potential candidates. Some members had also suggested that perhaps Geneva would be the best place to host the next Ministerial Conference, trade officials added.
 
According to trade officials, Turkey expressed hope that the decision would be taken on the basis of the presentations to be made, while Kenya said that it has the financial resources and the personnel, as well as the facilities already in place (to host the event).
 
The General Council Chair said that the fact that there is not yet a consensus on this issue is troubling, adding that the logistical complexity of hosting a Ministerial Conference is significant.
 
According to trade officials, the Chair said that he did not want to wait until the 10-11 December General Council meeting for a decision, and that he hoped to call a General Council meeting specifically on this issue before that. He urged members to come forward with their preferences on this matter.
 
The agenda item of improving the guidelines for granting intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) permanent observer status in the WTO was also taken up at the General Council meeting.
 
This essentially pertains to concerns expressed by the Arab Group that the League of Arab States has not been approved as an IGO observer for WTO ministerial conferences and meetings of other WTO bodies.
 
According to trade officials, there is no consensus on this and the General Council Chair has not seen any progress on this issue.
 
According to trade officials, speaking under this agenda item, the Dominican Republic, on behalf of the informal group of developing countries, requested that this be a standing item on the General Council agenda until the issue is resolved.
 
The US however voiced objection to the notion that this be an ongoing item on the agenda, said trade officials.
 
Meanwhile, under other business, Ukraine informed members that it is no longer going to pursue its GATT Article XXVIII consultations (with respect to renegotiating some 350 tariff lines that had been approved during its accession negotiations). +

 


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