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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov07/11)

8 November 2007


The following article was published in the SUNS on 1 November and is reproduced with permission.  Any reproduction and recirculation requires the permission of SUNS (sunstwn@bluewin.ch).

Best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN


G20 Ministerial to take place on 15 November
Published in SUNS #6356 dated 1 November 2007
By Kanaga Raja (SUNS), Geneva, 31 Oct 2007

The G20 developing countries at the WTO are to hold a Ministerial meeting here on 15 November, the Brazilian Minister of External Relations, Celso Amorim, announced at a media briefing on Wednesday.

The Minister confirmed the 15 November date for the G20 Ministerial, which is being organized by Brazil.

Earlier, Amorim had a meeting with G20 ambassadors at the Brazilian Mission here. Ambassadors representing the other developing-country groupings at the WTO joined in the latter part of the meeting.

The aim of the G20 Ministerial appears to be for the group's collective voice to be heard and listened to by the Chairs of the NAMA and agriculture negotiations as they prepare their revised draft texts.

The Ministerial meeting is being held just around the time that both the Chairs are expected to issue their revised draft texts.

(A trade diplomat from one of the G20 countries that attended the meeting at the Brazilian mission was of the view that the draft texts would be issued around 19 November.)

Speaking to journalists after the G20 ambassadors' meeting, Minister Amorim said that the main purpose of the meeting on Wednesday was to keep the G20 discussing subjects as well as to mobilize "as we approach the moment in which probably revised papers will be published".

Although Amorim was not sure how many ministers will be able to attend the G20 Ministerial as it was at a short notice, he said that both he and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath will be attending.

"Hopefully, our voice can be heard by the Chairman of the group and we can move hopefully to a last phase of the negotiations with more balanced texts," said Amorim.

Amorim said that he found that most countries are well engaged in the negotiations. They sometimes say that progress that has been made is purely incremental, and more in certain areas than in others. Although there were expressions of skepticism in terms of timetables, he did not feel any sense of despair.

There was also a concern that once again the US and the EU might have found some sort of mutual accommodation of their sensitivities and that they would abandon the more ambitious goals on questions that are difficult to them and concentrate all their efforts on areas on which developing countries would be the ones that might be tied.

Asked as to what he was hoping for in the G20 Ministerial meeting on 15 November, the Brazilian minister was of the view that it was probably "one of the last chances for our collective voice to be heard but also listened to, and I think it is important that the Chairmen, as they prepare their papers, to take into account the need for a balanced result."

A result that means that it is really a development round, Amorim said, adding that "we want to have clarity on what is on the table on agriculture because we still don't have clarity on what was accepted and what was not accepted."

As to whether the Chairs will issue the revised texts after the 15 November G20 Ministerial meeting, Amorim said that he had not talked to the Chairs yet. "Unless they want to do the contrary and they want to precipitate the texts to avoid listening to us... that would be very bad."

Asked whether the G20 Ministerial meeting will have an input into the revised text, Amorim said that he hopes they would have. Pointing out that between now and 15 November, "we will be working on concrete numbers and proposals", he said that the political message probably will have an input.

"We have to have a development round in which everyone gets out reasonably satisfied that it has contributed to fairer rules in terms of the world trade system."

We have to recognize that there is an inherent imbalance - the level of ambition of the NAMA text and its level of clarity is much bigger than in the agriculture text. This is the other way around of what the negotiations should be, according to Amorim.

While we don't necessarily want to dilute the level of ambition, added Amorim, we can't really see everyone in the rich countries seeing their sensitivities being taken into account, but when we have a very legitimate reason to ask for flexibilities, we have to accommodate that situation.

Asked whether he would envisage an outcome in the negotiations where they would end up with cuts in both the applied and bound rates, the Brazilian minister said that what we are envisaging will imply cuts in our applied rates - not on all but a large number of them.

It is a very complex calculation, which Amorim said he had presented in Potsdam.

He added that even when you take the applied rates, in terms of trade creation as a proportion of total trade - the same method that the EU proposes for quotas and which is a similar method outlined in Article 28 of the GATT - we are offering more in NAMA than what the rich countries are offering.

He noted that it is not only the balance between agriculture and NAMA, but that within NAMA itself, the principle of Less Than Full Reciprocity was not being followed. On the contrary, he said, "we would be giving more than what we are getting, which runs against the mandate."

Asked about the Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) proposal on NAMA where they have called for members of customs unions to be able to exempt up to 16% of tariff lines from agreed cuts and whether the union was divided on the issue, Amorim said that Mercosur was not divided on the issue.

"What we can't accept is that all the sensitivities of developed countries are being taken into account," he said, pointing out that the formula for market access in agriculture in rich countries is extremely obscure.

On the other hand, "in our case, there is a limitation on the total amount of trade and on a deviation of up to 50%."

"What we are saying is that we want to play the game, we want to come to a conclusion, we want to negotiate, but you have to take into account that we also have a need for flexibility," said the Brazilian minister.

He stressed that for Brazil, Mersocur is a major political objective, the same way that the European Union was for Germany and France after the Second World War. "We won't sacrifice Mercosur."

He added that what we are asking in terms of flexibility is very little in terms of trade and less obstructive than the exceptions that are being sought by rich countries in the case of market access in agriculture.

Asked whether the Mercosur proposal of 16% exception would break the spirit of the Doha round, Amorim said that "we never accepted the range that was put on the table in terms of coefficients."

Pointing out that the US had said that it would accept the range for Overall Trade Distorting Domestic Support (in the agriculture text, with a range of $13-$16.4 billion), Amorim asked what is the movement between $17 billion proposed by the US in Potsdam and the upper range in the Chair's text. "There is no movement at all. It has to come down very close to $13 billion".

For the EU, said the Brazilian minister, the way that the formulas are being calculated, means that we don't know what we will get. "I know what I won't get... I won't get opening because the tariff cuts will still be very limited".

"We are prepared to negotiate and we want a fair result, and we believe we are not far away from a fair result, if people are not unilateral and dogmatic."

Asked about the compliance panel ruling against the US in the cotton dispute with Brazil, Amorim said that the US still has the possibility to appeal. He hoped that they would not, but if the worst comes to the worst, he was prepared to seek retaliation.

If these practices are considered to be illegal, this would have a positive influence on the US position in relation to cotton and subsidies in general, said the Brazilian minister.

 


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