TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (June 07/25)

27 June 2007

Schwab implies support for a Lamy text

Below is a report of the press conference by USTR Susan Schwab held in Geneva on 22 June, a day after the collapse of the Potsdam G4 meeting.

Best wishes
Martin Khor

Schwab implies support for a Lamy text

By Martin Khor, Geneva, 22 June

The United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab indicated today she that would support a text for the Doha negotiations to be drawn up by WTO Director General Pascal Lamy but she was vague about timing and other details.

Schwab was speaking at a press conference at the WTO on Friday afternoon after the failed G4 talks in Potsdam.

Asked by a journalist if she would support a "Lamy text", the USTR said: "If the DG wants to move a text, fine. We are working with the Chairs of agriculture, NAMA and other groups."

Asked further whether Lamy should do a text since the Uruguay Round draft of a former Director General, Arthur Dunkel, had "tanked", and when Lamy should produce his text, Schwab said: "I leave it to the DG on the timing of the text, if any. We are working with the Chairs of agriculture and NAMA. Is it time for a draft? We need the dust to settle."

While it has floating around for many months, the question of whether Lamy is planning to produce his own draft of a Doha agreement has become a matter of greater speculation since the collapse of the G4 talks on Thursday, and the prospects that WTO members can come up with a modalities agreement by the end of July have become more dim.

Late Friday afternoon, an informal meeting of the WTO's Trade Negotiations Committee was held to assess the current situation.

Today, the "blame game" regarding the collapse of the G4 talks intensified, with the action shifting to Geneva.

At noon, the Brazilian Foreign Minister held a press briefing (See separate article). In the afternoon, Schwab and US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns spoke to the press.

Johanns said it was not fair to imply that some countries (referring to the US and EU) had gone to Potsdam with a convergence of views beforehand. He blamed India and Brazil for not being serious: "I believe India and Brazil came to Potsdam with the idea that this won't come together, they did not go there to negotiate."

Schwab said: "We discovered India and Brazil had very rigid positions on NAMA, and even on agriculture market access and in domestic support. It was as if two legs of this four legged stool showed up unwilling to deal and with red lines on everything, in a take it or leave it attitude."

Schwab repeated what she had said at her Potsdam press conference, that the G4 failure was not a North-South divide, and implied there was a difference of interests between India and Brazil on one hand and other developing countries on the other hand.

She said that other developing countries could only grow if they had access to the markets of emerging economies like India, China and Brazil. "To our chagrin, they were not prepared to play a positive role," she said of Brazil and India.

On the expiry of US President's fast track authority at the end of this month, the USTR said that it does not change anything where the Doha talks are concerned. "We are still committed to renew it. Sadly, the developments of yesterday have negative and positive effects on the renewal."