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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb08/10)

20 February 2008


Below please see a report on the press briefing by the Chairs of the agriculture and NAMA negotiations in the WTO on 8 February, the day in which they issued their revised texts.

This article was published in the SUNS on 11 Feb 2008.  Any reproduction requires permission of SUNS (sunstwn@bluewin.ch).

Best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN


Agriculture and NAMA Chairs issue texts, give press briefings
Published in SUNS #6411 dated 11 February 2008
By Kanaga Raja (SUNS), Geneva, 8 Feb 2008

Both the Chairs of the agriculture negotiations and the non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiations released their long-awaited revised draft negotiating texts on Friday.

In a press release, Director-General Pascal Lamy welcomed the release of both revised texts, saying that these documents paved the way for the launch of an important new stage in the Doha Round of global trade talks.

"The two chairs have produced texts which are now comprehensive. They reflect the progress that has arisen from the intensive negotiations involving all 151 WTO Members since July of last year... As expected, some areas in the negotiations will require further work. But it is clear that with the release of these texts, we are a step closer to looking across both these issues as we try to find the final balance for an ambitious and development-oriented round," he added.

At a press briefing following the release of the revised agriculture and NAMA texts, Agriculture Chairman Ambassador Crawford Falconer of New Zealand said he would like to think that "there should be no great surprises in it."

Referring to the various working documents that he had circulated last year, he said that "there is not a huge difference between this and those various piecemeal pieces of paper."

He said that what he has tried to do was to revise what was in his earlier text which is over six months old, to reflect what he thought the discussions and negotiations has got members to.

He thinks that this text "does no more or no less reflect, I hope, faithfully the nature of progress that has been made within the negotiations."

He was of the view that the present text was a comprehensive one. It also has an equivalent level of maturity in terms of the textual formulation. It has not artificially tried to invent solutions where they are not there, but has tried to fairly represent the convergence that is there - not to overly force but also not to understate it. He still thought that a number of things remain to be done.

On the process, Falconer said that he intends to call an open-ended informal meeting next Friday for an initial reaction to the text by delegates in Geneva. "Room E" meetings will be held the following week, with another open-ended meeting thereafter.

Asked if there were no changes in the "headline" numbers in this text, Falconer said that this was so.

There were no basic changes in the ranges of numbers for Overall Trade Distorting Support and on market access. There was also no change on the cotton issue.

On Special Products, he said that it was pretty much the same as outlined in his working document on the issue. On Special Safeguard Mechanism, Falconer said that the structure in his new text attempts to reflect the intensive discussions that were held on the issue.

Meanwhile, at his press briefing following that of the agriculture Chair, the NAMA Chairman Ambassador Don Stephenson of Canada said that his revised text should be understood as a little bit different in nature than the text he produced in July. His July text was a series of proposals by him in consultation with members.

The revised text is "more of a record of where we actually stand in the negotiations... so more of a negotiating text."

He was of the view that the text he has produced is "an accurate portrait" of the state of play in the NAMA negotiations.

He said that the brackets in his text (where there is no agreement) are largely on the numbers.

On the tariff reduction formula, he said that he has not changed the ranges in the coefficients.

(The Chair's text keeps the previous coefficients in brackets: 8-9 for developed members and 19-23 for developing members).

On the flexibilities, he said that he had removed the numbers altogether.

He said that members will have to resolve the flexibilities issue before they resolve the coefficients. He was also of the view that both the formula and the flexibilities would not be resolved in the negotiating groups.

He suggested that members rehearse for the horizontal negotiations.

After the release of the texts, and the briefings, several developing country diplomats, while indicating that they need to study the revised texts, in a preliminary way expressed their anger and hostility to the revised NAMA text - presumably for its failure to change or modify the coefficients.

There were unconfirmed reports that one or two delegations, having perhaps an inkling of the Stephenson text, have advised the WTO head that they would not engage in negotiations - neither in NAMA nor in the so-called horizontal process, in the absence of changes by Stephenson in the NAMA draft.

 


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