TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Sept07/05)
17 September 2007
Published in SUNS #6321 dated 12 September 2007
start of a new WTO "blame game" was made when the
on 6 September Schwab, during the APEC summit, had accused
The accusatory and aggressive tone of Schwab's message has caused negative response from developing countries' diplomats at the WTO, who say that this does not help to build confidence and goodwill required in he talks.
Below is a report that was published in the South-North Development Monitor -- SUNS #6321 dated 12 September 2007.
It is reproduced here with the permission of the SUNS. Any reproduction or re-circulation requires the prior permission of the SUNS (firstname.lastname@example.org).
US starts new WTO blame game
Published in SUNS #6321 dated 12 September 2007
early start to the WTO "blame game" has been launched by the
US Trade Representative Susan Schwab who in the past few days has twice
announced to the media that a small group of developing countries are
threatening to block progress in the
She said that chances for a WTO deal could slip away if countries refuse to negotiate on the basis of two draft texts issued in July on agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA), according to a Reuters report.
was the second time that Schwab was blaming developing countries. The
Financial Times on 7 September reported that Schwab, during the APEC
summit, had accused
"It will be very clear who the spoilers are," she said.
accusatory and aggressive tone of Schwab's message was emphasised by
the headlines of the articles reporting her comments. "US accuses
Others, however, said that such undiplomatic and pointed comments would have a negative effect on the atmosphere of the negotiations.
"We are still trying to build momentum for the talks which have started slowly, and these kinds of strong remarks blaming specific countries certainly do not help build the confidence and goodwill that is required," said the Ambassador of one developing country.
diplomats had a cynical interpretation of Schwab's remarks. According
to this view, the
of this, the
In anticipation of this, so the argument goes, the US Trade Representative has decided on a strategy of starting the blame game very early on so as to get the media to get and transmit the message that some developing countries are out to block progress in the talks, and to keep up with this aggressive stance and in the process hope that the US will escape the blame, or at least dilute the blame that would otherwise be directed at it.
remarks are also seen as being timed to have an impact on the talks
and how they are scheduled at the WTO in
The agriculture negotiations in Room E (the new Green Room process involving about 35 delegations) are presently discussing market access, and the next agenda item (which will start at the end of this week or early next week) is expected to be domestic support.
this item, everyone will be waiting to see if the
it is unable to make a credible offer, the
Schwab's comments in recent days on developing countries being out to wreck the Round, and especially her naming of specific countries, seems to confirm what was observed in the failed G4 Ministerial talks in Potsdam at the end of June - that the US and the European Union had reached some kind of understanding to be lenient on each other's weaknesses (and not to make significant demands on each other) while combining to pressurize the developing countries to make onerous concessions, particularly in NAMA.
The US seems to have decided on the tactic of putting the blame on some developing countries (which the USTR labelled as "advanced developing countries"), instead of on the EU, and to have chosen to attack them on their alleged non-cooperation in NAMA, in an attempt to take the spotlight away from agriculture (in which it finds a problem in making a credible offer).
A majority of developing countries formed a united front to protest against the Stephenson paper during meetings on NAMA and of the Trade Negotiations Committee at the end of July, before the WTO's summer break.
joint statement expressing the strong criticisms of the developing country
groupings (including the NAMA 11, the ACP and
At least three countries stated clearly that they could not accept the Stephenson draft as the basis or even as a basis for negotiations, while several other developing countries made statements at the WTO or in their capitals that verged on rejecting the draft as the basis for negotiations.
last week's APEC Summit, the
The most important operational line was that the negotiations should resume "on the basis of the draft texts tabled by the chairs of the negotiating groups on agriculture and non-agricultural market access."
Diplomats at the WTO were quick to point out that the APEC leaders' statement did not commit non-APEC members to accept the NAMA Chair's draft, and that many important players in the NAMA-11 such as India, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Venezuela are not APEC members, and neither are most of the countries in the ACP, African and LDC groups.
week, the EU trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said that all countries
had to make compromises, but stressed the need for the
on 10 September, the Press Trust of India reported from
At the WTO, many developing countries have been preparing themselves for the battle ahead on NAMA, even as the agriculture negotiations proceed. A meeting was held on Tuesday morning of the NAMA 11 together with coordinators of the ACP, African, LDC and SVE (small and vulnerable economies) groups.
Meanwhile, it is still not clear when Stephenson will launch the negotiations on NAMA. In July, he had indicated that the first open-ended NAMA meeting would be held around 17 September, but until Tuesday afternoon, there has been no notification sent out on the meeting.
The Chair of the NAMA negotiations has however, in the past two days, started consultations with a few individual countries and coordinators of groupings.