TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May08/02)
11 May 2008
Third World Network

Uncertainties and fluid situation on WTO's May schedule
Published in SUNS #6461 dated 23 April 2008 

By Martin Khor, Accra, 22 April 2008

The WTO negotiating schedule over the next weeks looks very fluid, according to several officials and diplomats that are in Accra for the UNCTAD XII conference and who have been interacting among themselves and also with the WTO Director General Pascal Lamy who is also here.

On Monday night (21 April), there was a meeting of G20 Ministers and officials, chaired by Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim. Following this was a brief meeting of the NAMA-11 group.

Lamy has been having bilateral meetings with several Ministers who are in Accra, including Amorim and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath.

Several officials and diplomats are of the view that it would be difficult for Lamy to keep to a planned schedule of starting a mini-Ministerial meeting on 19 May at the WTO to finalise modalities for agriculture and NAMA.

This is because of an expected delay in the revised texts by the chairs of the agriculture and NAMA negotiations. Instead of the end of April, the papers are expected to be out only on 5 May or even later. One official mentioned 10 May.

The delay is mainly due to the additional work required on sensitive products and tropical products in agriculture.

If the papers come out on 5 May, there could then be a start to the senior officials' meeting on 17 May, with a mini-Ministerial to start on 24 or 26 May. This revised schedule is what some officials have in mind, after discussions with Lamy and other officials.

However, other officials and diplomats wonder whether a Ministerial can be held in May at all. To them the kind of response given to the two Chairs' texts will be important. Moreover, one Ambassador noted that many members and their groupings were cautious against rushing into a horizontal process so soon.

At the G20 Ministerial on Monday, Amorim reportedly said that this was likely to be the last phase of the negotiations, and that many of the G20 proposals are in the Chair's paper, and that there was good progress in sensitive products, while the US seemed prepared to go down, as it had said, to about $16 billion, in overall trade distorting support.

However, this optimistic view was not shared by Ministers or officials of several countries. Some said that because of the high prices of food, the actual OTDS of the US had fallen, and the bound level must be such as to lead to an effective cut in the OTDS.

Some countries complained about the imbalance between agriculture and NAMA. Several countries wanted a firmer position on disciplining the Green Box. They also said the developed countries were not showing leadership in their own commitments, for example on OTDS.

The meeting seemed to reveal that there were some difference of approach among some of the G20 members relating to the process of the next few weeks, said one official. +