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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (July 07/02)

6 July 2007


New September deadline for WTO talks?

The deadline for adopting modalities for agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) in the WTO's Doha negotiations is likely to move from the end of July to the end of September or even later, according to several WTO diplomats.

The two papers on draft modalities on agriculture and NAMA are now expected to be issued only around 13-16 July.

The G4 failure has set back the targets that would have otherwise scheduled the modality papers to be issued at the end of June, to be followed by an end of July adoption of the modalities.

Below is a report on the changing deadlines, published in SUNS on 5 July.

Best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN

New September deadline for WTO talks?

By Martin Khor (TWN), Geneva, 4 July 2007

The deadline for adopting modalities for agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) in the WTO's Doha negotiations is likely to move from the end of July to the end of September or even later, according to several WTO diplomats.

The two papers on draft modalities on agriculture and NAMA are now expected to be issued only around 13-16 July.

This is a fortnight later than the end-June target that had been set by the Chair of the agriculture negotiations, Ambassador Crawford Falconer of New Zealand, even immediately after the failure of the G4 Ministerial meeting at Potsdam.

It is now clear that the G4 failure has set back the targets that would have otherwise scheduled the modality papers to be issued at the end of June, to be followed by consultations and further negotiations, and a possible mini-Ministerial meeting that WTO Director General was hoping to convene at the end of July in conjunction with a General Council meeting, to endorse the modalities.

Small-group discussions on agriculture that were to have been held last week were postponed, to let the "dust settle" after the Potsdam failed meeting.

The finalising of the modalities papers has become longer to undertake as well as a more difficult task for the two Chairs because the G4 members could not agree among themselves, and because of the emotions generated at and after the meeting.

According to diplomatic sources, after the papers are issued, there will be too little time for the process of getting responses from members and groupings and for further negotiations, to reach agreement by the end-of-July deadline.

Therefore, it is likely that the issuing of the papers will be followed by consultations and open-ended meetings for members to air their initial views, followed by the already scheduled General Council meeting of 25-26 July, which will enable members to register their official responses to the draft modalities.

The WTO then takes its traditional summer break starting at the end of July to the beginning of September.

Most of September is now expected to be spent in intense negotiations on the modalities, and if these make enough progress, the modalities could be adopted at the end of September, in a new schedule of targets informally making the rounds at the WTO, according to the trade diplomats.

"This new plan is more realistic than keeping to the old target of adopting final modalities at the end of July," said a developing country diplomat.

"However, whether the many contentious issues and the wide gaps can be settled by the end of September is another question."

As the deadlines are pushed back once again, more diplomats and trade analysts increasingly wonder whether the Doha talks will eventually have to be put on the back burner for a few years, since the United States will have little time to focus on the WTO negotiations as its Presidential election campaign gets under way.

Also, the expiry of the fast track authority of the US President will mean that the United States' trading partners will have less confidence that the positions its negotiators take can be maintained.

 


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