TWN Info Service on Trade and WTO Issues (July08/07)
9 July 2008
Third World Network

Trade: G20, G33 give final statements at open-ended agriculture meeting
Published in SUNS #6512 dated 8 July 2008

Geneva, 7 July (Martin Khor) -- The developed countries' concerns and sensitivities are being constantly accommodated as the means to attain "convergence" in the WTO negotiations on agriculture, while many outstanding issues of interest to developing countries are still unresolved, complained the Group of 20 developing countries at an open-ended agriculture meeting at the WTO on Monday afternoon (7 July).

The meeting was called by Ambassador Crawford Falconer of New Zealand, chair of the Doha agriculture negotiations, as the final opportunity for him to brief WTO members on the latest consultations and to hear members' views, before he issues his final draft text on modalities, expected later this week.

Meanwhile, the Group of 33 developing countries warned that all elements of the group's concerns on special products and special safeguard mechanism must be incorporated in the next agriculture modalities text. "For us, it must be part of the final outcome."

These two major groupings of developing countries were among WTO members that aired their final views and positions before the finalisation by Falconer of his paper.

The G20, represented by Brazilian Ambassador, Clodoaldo Hugueney, was one of the early speakers at the meeting. It mainly reiterated its positions, giving lists of key issues that remain to be resolved before or at the mini-Ministerial.

The group re-emphasised the centrality of Agriculture in the Doha Round and that in the end of July meetings, the level of ambition in agriculture will determine the level of ambition in other areas, particularly NAMA.

On Domestic Support, the G20 called for an indication of what the main subsidizing countries are prepared to do in terms of the ranges, stressing the mandate for substantial reduction in domestic support levels and the need for effective product-specific disciplines.

An outcome for Cotton that respects the Mandate is absolutely essential, said the G20, while "we must ensure that green box payments have no, or at most minimal effects on production. In the new Agriculture text and given the new circumstances in world agriculture prices, those several layers of specific flexibilities for Developed Countries must go."

On Market Access, the G20 stated that the method for achieving convergence has been the constant accommodation of Developed Countries' sensitivities and concerns, adding that "this has a price in terms of the level of ambition."

The group listed several issues that remain open to be resolved: the ambition of cuts in the top band; average cut; tariff capping; SSG; tariff simplification; in-quota tariffs.

The G20 stressed that no tariff rate quota should be created. TRQ creation would be a step backwards and would compromise the objective of long-term reform in Agriculture. Depending on the option taken, a completely different picture would emerge.

"Not all the alternatives would fulfill the Mandate for substantial improvements in market access," the group told the Chair. "To preserve the level of ambition to be decided by Ministers, we need the full range of options in your revised text."

On Export Competition, it stressed that the concerns of the net food importing developing countries (NFIDCs) and LDCs with regard to export credits must be fully addressed.

"We would also like to highlight the importance of making S&D treatment and other flexibilities for SVEs and RAMs operative and integral to the negotiations in the three pillars," said the statement. "The G-20 highlights the importance of SPs, in addressing the food security, rural development and livelihood concerns of developing countries, and of the SSM."

The G33, represented by Mr. Gusmardi Bustami, formerly Ambassador to the WTO and now Director General at the Trade Ministry of Indonesia, underlined that the group has so far been the only "flexible contributor" and had taken significant steps to narrow the gaps on the special products (SP) and special safeguard mechanism (SSM) issues.

It complained that "at this critical juncture of negotiations, the lack of positive, constructive and flexible stands from our negotiating partners is very discouraging. Regretfully up to now we are yet to see genuine movements and flexibilities from our partners."

Stressing the importance of SP and SSM, the G33 said how these topics are treated is the litmus test of whether the Round delivers development outcomes. The Round is an opportunity to correct existing inequitable trading conditions which developing countries have suffered for a long time, and whether such a balance is reached depends on how the development needs are met through S&D measures such as SPs and SSM.

"All elements of SPs and SSM conveyed by the Group over the years and most recently must be incorporated in the next agriculture revised text for submission to Ministers," said the G33. "For us, it must be a part of the final outcome.

"Any suggested formulation that does not include the explicit treatment of SPs with zero cut and the remedy for SSM going beyond the pre-Doha bound levels, coupled with more flexible triggers than the SSG, cannot constitute a solution for the G33. It will simply not be acceptable to the Group under any circumstances."

The G33 said that for highly political reasons, the zero cut principle remains as a "must" for the group. It called for the new text to have a separate zero cut tier for a "comfortable and reasonable" percentage of tariff lines.

The G33 said it was ready to negotiate an overall average cut for the non-zero SPs which will be at a sufficiently low level to secure the group's concerns. "The cuts for the non-zero SPs can only be a cut that is not the same or not exceeding the cuts for sensitive products or ordinary agriculture products.

On SSM, the G33 said that limiting the level of remedy only up to the pre-Doha bound level nullifies any benefit from such a mechanisms and renders the SSM to be meaningless.

"Yet the G33 is ready to negotiate a two-window approach. A structure that first allows developing countries remedies up to the pre-Doha bound levels, under the principles of all agriculture products in any given 12 months period.

And, second, for a reasonable and logical percentage of tariff lines and not products, developing countries shall be given the entitlement of remedies that would go beyond the pre-Doha bound level, without any capping."

It added that LDCs, SVEs and RAMs shall be provided more and additional flexibilities to the provisions of SPs and SSMs.

It concluded that the G33's fundamental positions on SPs and SSM must be fairly reflected.

(The meeting was still in progress at press time. Another report of the meeting will be carried in the next issue of SUNS.) +