Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec07/01)
Lamy outlines process for Doha talks for early next year
following article was published in SUNS dated 3 December 2007 and is
reproduced here with permission. Any reproduction requires the
permission of SUNS (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Lamy outlines process for Doha
talks for early next year
SUNS #6378 dated 3 December 2007
By Kanaga Raja,
30 Nov 2007
members must continue to focus primarily on securing agreement on the
modalities for agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA)
by early next year (by end February), if the Doha Round is to be concluded
before the end of 2008, the Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee,
Pascal Lamy, told delegations Friday.
who is also the WTO Director-General, was speaking at an informal meeting
of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) at the level of heads-of-delegation
that was convened to look at the state of play in the negotiations as
well as to discuss the further process.
trade officials said that everyone endorsed the Lamy notion of trying
to conclude modalities in agriculture and NAMA by end of February, interventions
and remarks of some delegations, showed that members while focussing
on agriculture as central and insisting on development issues, were
also indicating the need for parallel progress (with agriculture and
NAMA) in other areas, including market access in services (in Modes
1 and 4).
to trade officials, revised texts in agriculture and NAMA are being
envisaged for late January - after the Davos meeting - or early February.
The idea then would be to go as quickly as possible to a horizontal
process to find trade-offs - covering agriculture and NAMA together.
Trade officials said that Lamy's notion of trying to conclude the modalities
in agriculture and NAMA by the end of February was one that everyone
endorsed. The trade officials stressed that this was not a deadline,
but a time-frame.
countries spoke at the informal TNC meeting, including those representing
the developing-country groupings.
developing countries stressed that the process must be transparent and
inclusive and that substance was a much better determinant of progress
than an arbitrary time-line. They also emphasized that the Doha Round
is a development round and that the texts that come out should reflect
the development dimension and the Doha
the informal TNC meeting, Lamy noted that though it was originally foreseen
that by this time of the revised draft modalities texts in agriculture
and NAMA would be in circulation, events had overtaken members. The
progress being made in agriculture has prompted the negotiators in that
area to aim a bit higher.
is a widely-shared feeling that a bit more time would allow more details
to be settled and that this would in turn allow the agriculture chair
to table a more comprehensive revised text.
could take place somewhere around the end of January, which could lead
to the establishment of the modalities about one month later, said Lamy,
adding that this will no doubt necessitate at the right moment a horizontal
process - that is, one covering both agriculture and NAMA together.
process could operate at the level of Geneva-based representatives,
senior officials and eventually Ministers as necessary. "But, as
I have said before, if ministerial involvement in needed at some point,
we can only fix this point once we have seen how much work will remain
to be done to get to modalities," said Lamy.
the modalities in place is the gateway to concluding the Round, stressed
Lamy. "Once we get to agreement on modalities, a new phase would
open with three components that could run parallel: scheduling agriculture
and NAMA, tabling final offers and scheduling services and finalizing
the other rule-making parts of the negotiations."
we agree on modalities early next year, I believe we could be able to
conclude the Round before the end of 2008," he said, adding that
"It follows, therefore, that securing agreement on the modalities
must continue to be our primary focus."
is not to downgrade in any way the other issues in the negotiations,
he said, stressing that the Single Undertaking remains the basic guarantee
to all participants.
the Single Undertaking, the different negotiating issues are moving
at their own rhythm and Chairmen's texts appear as the substantive discussions
in the negotiating groups have ripened these issues. "It is therefore
important, notably for those who have horses running in areas other
than agriculture and NAMA, that you keep a sustained pace of work in
all negotiating groups," he said.
before, I do not believe setting hard deadlines would be helpful to
our process. But the reality of the situation is that we are now in
overtime. And the second half of overtime starts in January. And, as
you all know, the time allowed for overtime in any sport is always limited,"
also gave a brief overview of the work undertaken so far in various
areas. On the issue of GI extension and the TRIPS/CBD relationship,
he reported differences in delegations' positions during consultations
over these issues, and said that consultations would continue with a
view to finding common ground.
countries spoke following the Director-General's remarks.
India said that it shared the Director-General's
assessment of the work that has been done in the past few months as
well as the sequence that he described for the next few months. It believed
that a conclusion in 2008 is possible provided that members are all
flexible and fully engaged.
said that as envisaged in Hong Kong,
"finalization of modalities in agriculture and NAMA must be the
first charge on our time and engagement." It said that without
agriculture and NAMA modalities being achieved within the time frame
that has been envisaged by the Director-General, conclusion cannot be
achieved within 2008.
time constraints, India
stressed that it is "at the end, substance that will lead us to
success, not timelines." For this, all texts have to combine comprehensiveness
with balance and equity, and that this balance and equity has to be
as much vertical as horizontal, said India,
adding that the development dimension is obviously at the core of this
India said that there is need for
recognition that the finalization of agriculture and NAMA modalities
has to occur in an environment which provides comfort to all members.
In these negotiations, various members will derive their comfort from
developments on various parts of the Single Undertaking. "Finalization
of agriculture and NAMA modalities cannot occur in a vacuum."
India added that members will need
to be assured that work on areas of interest to them has proceeded adequately
for them to assess the outcomes they can anticipate in these areas.
All members need to have a stake in the horizontal process that the
Director-General envisaged in February/March. For this to happen, said
India, work in all areas needs to
be further intensified to enable text-based negotiations at the earliest.
India cited several examples of the
huge challenges that members still face. It said that discussions on
Special Products and the Special Safeguard Mechanism in Room E (consultations
among some 36 delegations at the WTO) have witnessed sharp differences
in ambitions and the outcome on this critical area remains far from
clear. It also noted that the discussion on the relationship between
the Convention on Biological Diversity and TRIPS agreement remains stalemated.
On services, India
said that there is no assurance that the key areas of interest to India in market
access will be addressed at all.
the next few weeks, we expect that we will see clear signs of progress
in these and related areas," said India.
to trade officials, Uganda,
for the African Group, said that the process needs to be transparent
and inclusive. It stressed a bottom-up approach. Substance is a much
better determinant of progress than an arbitrary time-line. It re-emphasized
that the Doha Round is a development round and the texts that come out
should reflect the development dimension and the Doha
mandate. There should be no dilution of the development dimension. It
expressed hope that the texts would adequately reflect the African Group's
concerns. The group had concerns over special and differential treatment,
implementation issues, cotton, and capacity building.
Brazil said that it agreed with the
process laid out by the Director-General. It said that it should be
on substance rather than being time-driven. It agreed to the focus on
full modalities on agriculture and NAMA. They are the gateway to progress
elsewhere. It said that agriculture is the engine of the negotiations.
The round cannot be concluded if there are no final modalities in agriculture
are two objectives, said Brazil,
in that texts must be comprehensive and they must encompass all areas
and interests of all members. They must be balanced in a way which can
lead to a horizontal process as soon as possible. There must also be
an equilibrium in terms of ambition and flexibility inside each text
and across the two texts (agriculture and NAMA). Brazil supported the African Group
on paying attention to development issues.
Bangladesh, for the LDCs, supported
the African Group. It wanted comprehensive and credible texts. It expected
that the LDCs' concerns will be reflected in the revised texts and wanted
effective, operational duty-free, quota-free market access for LDCs.
It also expressed unhappiness that the LDCs' concerns have not been
addressed in the services negotiations.
Benin, speaking on behalf of the Cotton-4,
said that the cotton issue needs to be agreed soon. Without a fair and
appropriate result for the cotton issue, there will not be a conclusion
to the Doha Round, said Benin.
Paraguay said that without a development
element in the Doha Round, the round will be a disaster for the Paraguayan
economy. It wanted to see a change in attitude of the developed countries
to ensure that there is more progress in this area.
to trade officials, Indonesia, for the Group of 33, stressed
on the issue of substance (rather than deadlines). Convergence should
emerge through substance and constructive engagement.
Jamaica, on behalf of the ACP Group,
said that agriculture and NAMA are the centre but work also needs to
be done in the other areas. It also needs to be acknowledged that many
ACP members have a limited capacity to engage in simultaneous negotiations.
Nigeria shared the assessment that
the window of opportunity will not remain open indefinitely. While agriculture
and NAMA need to be resolved, there are also other areas that should
be fast-tracked - services, rules, and trade facilitation. It also stressed
a transparent, inclusive and bottom-up approach. Agriculture holds the
key, said Nigeria, adding that it supported
the African Group, the G20, the G33 and the ACP.
Argentina said that the agriculture
and NAMA texts have to be comprehensive and comparable. At the moment,
there is no level of comparability between those two texts.
European Union shared the Director-General's sense of urgency. It is
essential that the agriculture and NAMA modalities are reached by end
January. A breakthrough is needed across the board in February.
agreed with the Director-General's approach and said that if members
follow this particular plan and time-line, there is an opportunity to
finish negotiations in 2008. It remained committed to finishing the
Round in 2008. The immediate priority is completing full modalities
in agriculture and NAMA with a level of specificity that would make
it possible to begin scheduling, said the US.
TNC Chairman concluded by saying that the discussion was useful and
showed a common understanding on two key points - substance should drive
the process, and that agriculture and NAMA should lead the pack. The
establishment of agriculture and NAMA modalities will open the door
for other areas of the negotiations. +
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