TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May08/28)
28 May 2008
Third World Network

Trade: NAMA meeting shows up major gaps between North and South
Published in SUNS #6483 dated 28 May 2008 

Geneva, 27 May (Martin Khor) -- A meeting on non agricultural market access today showed up the big divides between developed and developing countries in general, raising the question whether there can be sufficient progress made to make a Ministerial meeting worthwhile if it is to be held within a month.

The Chair of the NAMA negotiations, Canadian Ambassador Don Stephenson, told the open-ended informal NAMA meeting, held to hear WTO members' initial responses to his 19 May revised draft text, that "all issues remain unresolved" and that compared to the agriculture draft, it is behind in time. The job of finishing the modalities is "doable, but only if you are interested," he said.

There was a clear North-South divide at the meeting. Many developing countries, including the NAMA-11, said the level of ambition set for developing countries subject to the formula tariff cuts, remains "too onerous", and the spread of coefficients for developed and developing countries remains too small, so that the mandate for "less than full reciprocity" (i. e. that developing countries reduce their tariffs by less than the developed countries) are still not met by the new draft.

Many developing countries also asked for a lower coefficient for developed countries than the 7 to 9 range given in the new paper. A coefficient of 5 was called for by developing countries.

In contrast, the developed countries, led by the US and EU, warned that the flexibilities given to developing countries, especially the special cases made for a few developing countries in the NAMA-11, would seriously erode the market access that they can obtain in these developing countries.

The US and EU also flatly rejected any coefficient below the 7 to 9 range to apply for developed countries.

With the major developed and developing countries seemingly locked in an impasse that has lasted for months, it is difficult to see what progress can be made on the core issues surrounding the formula and the flexibilities linked to it.

Meetings on the NAMA text in a small group will begin on Wednesday, followed by other meetings in the week including Saturday and Sunday. Another open-ended meeting will be held on Monday June 2 to assess progress of these small-group consultations.

(A more detailed report on the NAMA meeting will be in the next issue of SUNS). +