Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May08/15)
WTO does not foresee Ministerial meeting in May
The World Trade Organization on Wednesday acknowledged that it would be "extremely difficult" that a mini-ministerial meeting aimed at reaching cross-cutting agreements on agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) could take place in the month of May.
Asked at a press briefing following a General Council meeting about when the Ministerial meeting would take place, WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell told journalists that "it would be extremely difficult under these time constraints, and given the importance of substance to this process, to have such a meeting in May."
As to the time constraints, the WTO spokesperson referred to the discussions on the issues of sensitive products, and tropical and preference products as well as the time that would need to be taken for the revised draft modalities texts on agriculture and NAMA, once they have been issued, to be considered in the respective negotiating groups and subsequently for senior officials to knock down the outstanding issues to a manageable number for the ministers to consider.
(While the ministerial-level "horizontal process" meeting to take up the issues of agriculture and NAMA in a cross-cutting manner was originally envisaged for the week of 19 May, the WTO has now appeared to state that such a meeting would not take place this month.
reports and officials have been saying that the horizontal process at
the ministerial level might take place sometime in June or in July.
Even the month of June is now uncertain with the European football championships
to take place in
At the General Council meeting, several developing countries (including India, China and Brazil) stressed the need to seriously negotiate the issue of disclosure of countries of origin and benefit sharing arrangements in patent applications involving genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as part of the next negotiating phase.
The EU led those countries that stressed the urgency of convening "cross-cutting" negotiations as soon as possible, as a bottom-up approach would now take too much time and the possibility of failure was real. Many developing countries emphasized the priority of having the correct substance of the outcome of negotiations.
In his report to the General Council, Director-General Pascal Lamy said that "if we are to meet the collective target we have of concluding the Round by the end of 2008... we have only a few weeks, not months or semesters, in which to establish modalities. This is a very tight schedule, but it is still doable."
"There is no choice to be made between substance and timing. Today, I believe it is fair to say that we have come a long way in breaching differences on substance. Putting the modalities in place very soon, therefore, is the only way to achieve our end-of-year target, since it would leave us just enough time for scheduling in Agriculture and NAMA and to wrap up the negotiations in the other areas," he added.
"We also know that it is the substance which drives the process, and that we must proceed step by step. The balance between these two key aspects of our work - urgency and substance - is what we must strive to fine-tune over the coming days," said Lamy.
also reported on the TRIPS/CBD issue, namely GIs and the TRIPS/CBD relationship.
For the mandated negotiations on a GI register, the TRIPS Special Session
Chairman will be making a report to the TNC on the work in his area.
In addition, Lamy said that he has a mandate from Ministers in
"For these two issues, we will also have reports indicating the state of play in my consultations, which are currently being undertaken with the assistance of DDG Rufus Yerxa. On the basis of the consultations so far, I believe these reports are likely to factually set out the different positions, rather than to offer solutions. However, consultations are continuing and I reiterate my call today for continued efforts between the groups of Members concerned, so as to try to avoid a big clash during the modalities exercise."
The issue of the current food crisis plaguing a number of developing countries due to high food prices was also featured at the General Council meeting, with Lamy suggesting that the food crisis has added urgency to concluding the Doha Round.
"The reasons why we must conclude the Round this year are visible to all of us and they are becoming more critical by the day."
Pointing to his last report, where he mentioned what was happening in the world economy, in particular, the turbulent situation in the financial markets, Lamy said that "since then, we have also witnessed an unprecedented escalation in food prices worldwide which has had negative effects particularly on developing countries that depend on imports for their food security or are net food buyers. The result, as we have seen, has been unrest linked to these high food prices in a number of your countries."
"Although the WTO cannot provide anything immediate to help solve the current crisis, it can, through the Doha Round negotiations, provide medium to long term solutions," he said, adding that alongside other efforts by governments and international organisations, a WTO deal could help soften the impact of high prices by tackling the systemic distortions in the international market for food.
"We all aim to substantially lower barriers to trade in agricultural products and diminish levels of trade distorting subsidies, particularly in developed countries that have hampered food production and investment in agriculture in many developing countries. This is doable and we are nearly there. As you are all aware, the overall outcome would be less distortion in world markets and increased international trade, leading to more rapid and efficient adjustment by supply to changes in demand."
"This food price issue is obviously bad news for many countries today. But if the declining trend in prices of agriculture commodities which we have witnessed in the last decade is to be reversed, which I believe must be, it can also mean good news for the future, provided the necessary policy responses are given. The WTO can provide part of the solution," he added.
"For this reason, and it is a compelling one for you all, the conclusion of the Doha Round is more urgent today than it was yesterday."
According to WTO spokesperson Rockwell, every delegation that spoke began their statement by talking about the food crisis, and said that this makes the resolution of the outstanding issues in agriculture in the Doha Round all the more urgent.
countries spoke at the General Council meeting where they voiced their
views and positions on the various issues in the
It looked forward to the revised texts from Chairmen of Agriculture and NAMA as soon as possible. These texts should be complete and reflect positions of the broad Members in a balanced way so as to facilitate the intensive negotiations in the coming weeks.
is a development round and development dimension is the core element
in the negotiations. The outcome of the Doha Round negotiations must
be conducive to the more effective participation of all developing countries
in the global economy and their sustainable development," said
To fulfill the mission of this Round, developed countries should be willing to consider sufficient policy flexibilities for developing countries. Development issues such as Special Products, Special Safeguard Mechanism, cotton, specific concerns of LDCs, Small and Vulnerable Economies and Recently-Acceded Members must be dealt with earnestly, comprehensively and effectively.
the issue of Rules,
the issue of CBD,
believed that, among the outstanding implementation issues, this issue
of the relationship between the CBD and the TRIPS Agreement has matured
both politically and technically. "In this regard,
to trade officials,
Referring to the specific discussions on sensitive products being undertaken by six countries in an effort to broaden the consensus on this, Argentina said that this was not satisfactory in relation to what has been negotiated so far particularly with respect to market access.
"However, the geographical spread and the socio-economic profile of co-sponsors are a barometer of importance and urgency attached to the issue. There is also wide convergence on the issue, the minimum of which are the shared objectives of strengthening mutual supportiveness between TRIPS and CBD and taking measures to counter bio-piracy, erroneous patents and misappropriation of genetic resources."
proponents have been engaging constructively on the issue both in the
meetings organized by Deputy Director-General Rufus Yerxa as well as
informally with other delegations, said
is a groundswell of support for this critical deliverable. This is an
idea whose time has come. Efforts to brush this issue under the carpet
is fraught with the risk of endangering the horizontal process,
of the TRIPS-CBD issue, "you (Director-General) had prophesized
in the informal TNC meeting held on April 16 of a 'big clash during
the modalities exercise'. You mentioned the possibility of a big clash
even today. With such wide support, we do not see the possibility of
such a clash," said
"Therefore, we strongly feel that text-based negotiations, based on the draft modalities text submitted by the proponents, must begin immediately. If other Members wish to bring something on the table, they are most welcome to do so. Let me reiterate my willingness to walk the extra mile in search of an effective solution to meet our shared objectives."
to trade officials,
the question of the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the
Convention on Biological Diversity,
food crisis has made it an obligation for us to speed up our work. A
successful outcome will have a positive effect on curbing rising food
prices, according to
to trade officials,
According to trade officials, the EU hoped that there would be a manageable process for the senior officials and ministers. We need to move as soon as possible into the cross-cutting negotiations. It is doable but failure is also a possibility, said the EU. There is a possibility that the bottom-up approach would take too long. If we are going to make the 2008 time-frame, we need to clarify at the time of the agriculture and NAMA modalities what the scope of the Doha Development Agenda would be in the other areas.
The EU also mentioned the issue of the GI register and GI extension. There is need for agreement on a binding road map for the work programme before the close of 2008. On the food, crisis, the EU said that we need a coherent response to it. Restrictions on exports will only exacerbate the food crisis. The Doha Development Agenda has a role to play in terms of fixing this.
Chinese Taipei said that there was need to narrow the differences on sensitive products, tropical products and preference erosion if we are to finalize texts. It was supportive of the signalling conference on services.
to trade officials,
According to Uruguay, if there is failure to get that in place this year, we could be waiting up to 20 years to get this done because of the fact that there are new issues coming on board and we will have a very different set of political circumstances and the result may be that we will have to wait that long until this is done.
It said that there is need to tackle the question of subsidies for inefficient production. There is need to eliminate export subsidies, and reduce high tariffs and non-tariff barriers in order to increase trade flows. This means that there is need to conclude the modalities before the summer. +