TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr08/07)
23 April 2008
Third World Network

Trade: Green Room cannot agree on rules; agri meeting discusses SP
Published in SUNS #6454 dated 14 April 2008 

Geneva, 11 Apr (Martin Khor) -- A Green Room meeting at the WTO late on 10 April afternoon could not agree on how to treat the issue of "rules" in the "horizontal process" that is expected to take place in May.

It is generally agreed that the Doha negotiations on "rules" - amendments to WTO rules on anti-dumping measures, subsidies and other measures - will not directly be part of the horizontal talks that will only be confined to agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA).

However, the Green Room meetings convened by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy with about 25 ambassadors, have also generally agreed that three other issues - services, TRIPS (geographical indications and TRIPS/Biodiversity Convention relations) and rules - will also somehow figure in a larger package surrounding the horizontal process.

Previous Green Room meetings had discussed how services may be treated, with a "signalling conference" (in which Ministers of selected members provide signs of their revised offers) and a report or text by the Chair of the services negotiations (the nature of which is not yet certain).

On TRIPS issues, it was discussed how a Chairman's report on the status of the negotiations on the issues of geographical indications and the TRIPS/CBD relations would be produced.

The signaling meeting and the services text or report, and the TRIPS report, are to be held or issued around the same time as the horizontal Mini-Ministerial, when and if it is held.

[According to many media reports, Lamy is hoping to start the mini-Ministerial on 19 May, following a week of a senior officials' meeting, both of which comprise the horizontal process. Officially, Lamy has said that a Ministerial will be called by him when the conditions are ripe.]

The Green Room meeting on 10 April discussed how the rules negotiations would figure in the horizontal process. This has taken on large significance because many WTO members (including not only a wide range of developing countries but also some developed countries, notably Japan) have been very upset by the draft text of the Chair of the rules negotiations, Ambassador Guillermo Valles Galmes of Uruguay.

In particular, they have objected to the text in the anti-dumping section that legitimises the practice of "zeroing" used by the United States in dumping investigations, which exaggerates the margin of dumping. In some panel cases in WTO, affirmed by the Appellate Body, this practice has been ruled to be against the existing WTO anti-dumping rules.

The countries have demanded that the Chair produce a revised text, which at least puts together the positions of various members, and they want this to be done before the start of the horizontal process. The US, which generally supportive of how the Chair's current draft treats zeroing, is against a revised text. So far, Valles Galmes has also been reluctant to produce a revised text at this moment.

According to diplomats, the two-hour Green Room meeting on 10 April discussed the nature and form of the document that the Chair would produce before the horizontal process.

Valles Galmes preferred to produce a report describing the state of play of the rules negotiations. Most of the members at the meeting wanted a revised text that consolidates in one document the various positions of different members, and that this is issued before the horizontal meetings begin. The US did not want such a revised text.

The diplomats said that Lamy said that it was not enough to have a report, but a paper was needed to give comfort to members who are concerned (about the present text) before the horizontal process starts.

Another diplomat who was at the meeting said that the Chair of the rules negotiations tried to explain why he should produce only a report and not a revised text, but that "he did not convince most of us, even though he spoke for 20 minutes."

The meeting did not make a conclusion on the process involving rules, and another Green Room discussion on this issue will be held, probably next week.

Meanwhile, the agriculture small-group Room E meeting on 10 April afternoon discussed the issue of tariff quota administration, which is covered in paragraphs 108-118 of the 8 February draft modalities text of the Chair of the agriculture negotiations, Ambassador Crawford Falconer of New Zealand.

On 11 April, the Room E meeting, to which 36 delegations are invited, discussed special products (SP).

According to diplomats, the highlight of the discussion on 11 April morning was the presentation of the G33's summary of its positions, while a group of 9 countries which are against a strong SP (Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Thailand, United States and Uruguay) presented its new 8 April paper on "elements of special product modalities."

The discussion on SP continued on 11 April afternoon, and the issue of special safeguard mechanism was also expected to be discussed. +