TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (July 07/04)

11 July 2007

WTO Chairs confirm end-July deadline will not be met

By Martin Khor (TWN), Geneva, 6 July 2007

The Chairs of the WTO's Doha negotiations on agriculture and non agricultural market access (NAMA) have confirmed that there will not be an attempt to finalize the modalities for these two issues by the deadline of end of July.

Instead, there will be "intensive negotiations" starting 3 September, after the diplomats come back from the traditional WTO summer break which begins at the end of July.

This means that the end-July deadline for concluding the modalities will be the latest in a series of missed deadlines in the troubled Doha talks (See SUNS #6286 dated 5 July 2007).

In the new schedule, both papers on modalities will be issued in mid-July, and meetings will be held in the week starting 23 July to allow WTO members to air their initial comments. After the August break, negotiations will begin 3 September and the Chairs intend to later prepare a revised draft of each of their papers.

The Chair of the agriculture talks, Ambassador Crawford Falconer of New Zealand, and the Chair of the NAMA negotiations, Ambassador Don Stephenson of Canada, sent a joint fax on 5 July to the WTO members on the "forward process" on the two issues.

They said that since the informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee on June 22, they have been conducting a number of bilateral and plurilateral consultations regarding the forward process and, in particular, the presentation of revised draft negotiating texts.

From the consultations, it was concluded that further meetings will not be productive until there is a text on which to focus the discussions, and the NAMA consultations scheduled by July 9 are cancelled.

"We are both in the process of finalizing draft negotiating texts and consulting closely with one another on matters of substance, and with the Chairs of the TNC and General Council on the precise timing of the release of our texts," said the fax.

The Chairs said that their papers will be available mid-July and they intend to provide several days thereafter for delegations to give initial consideration and to seek instructions from capitals.

They will convene the Negotiating Groups in the week of 23 July to allow Members to have an initial reaction to those texts.

The Chairs also stressed two points. "First, as regards the late July Meetings, they are seen by us to be another step in a process. All Members will have time to give full and comprehensive reactions thereafter. Second, as regards the revised texts themselves, they are also another step in a process. They should lead on - in due course and after proper reflection - to a further revision."

Members will be given an opportunity to react initially to these texts before the end of July.

"We will suspend our meetings at that point so that Members should then have the entire month of August to reflect fully on the draft texts, and that they are in a position to return to the Geneva process fully prepared to engage in an intensive negotiation as from 3rd September," said the Chairs.

"We would both anticipate also that consultations and negotiations in September in our respective negotiating groups would put us both in the position - indeed oblige us - to further revise those draft texts on the basis of the views expressed in the Negotiating Groups," they concluded.

Several diplomats commented that the missed deadline was another blow to the chances of the Doha talks concluding overall by the end of the year or early next year.

The prospects and atmosphere of negotiations are also affected by the news that the Democrat leaders of the US Congress do not intend to renew President Bush's fast track authority anytime soon.

Meanwhile, both the Indian Commerce Minister Mr. Kamal Nath and the Brazilian Foreign Minister Mr. Celso Amorim are in Geneva and met with each other today. They also separately met with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy.

The Ministers also held separate meetings with the G90 (comprising the ACP, African and LDC Groups). Nath's meeting with the G90 was on Thursday and Amorim's meeting was on Friday.