Info Service on Trade and WTO Issues (July08/32)
New G7 takes over WTO negotiations, Green Room suspended
Geneva, 23 July (Martin Khor) -- The WTO negotiations shifted gear and format today when a new group of 7 WTO members was convened and started meeting from 3.00 pm, replacing the Green Room of 30-40 delegations as the principal forum of negotiations.
The decision to suspend the Green Room after two days was taken at the end of its meeting on Tuesday night by WTO Director General Mr. Pascal Lamy.
At the Trade Negotiations Committee informal meeting on Wednesday morning, Lamy said smaller meetings in various configurations would be held instead of the Green Room (See separate article). He however did not mention the creation of the new group of 7, which has become the latest development that is not openly announced, but which many people speculate about.
to diplomatic sources, the seven comprise the old G6 (the
Diplomats said it was clear that the Green Room meeting would not produce results as the positions expressed are so divergent, and members seemed to be sticking to their positions.
it was hoped that the
inability of the
However, there are also strong doubts whether the new small group will be able to reach convergence.
Said the lead negotiator of a developing country that is in the Green Room: "They tried the G6, then the G4, and then the G12. If they did not reach agreement, it is difficult to see how a new G7 can do so."
The official said it became clear in the Green Room that the Ministers were very far from reaching common ground, and time was running out. "Perhaps it was a mistake to have called the Ministerial. Now, the DG is trying to steer the ship to the harbour and avoid a sinking."
Other delegates are of the view that the establishment by Lamy of a small core group is only to be expected, as decisions cannot be taken quickly in a Green Room of 30 to 40 Ministers.
"We will know more quickly in the group of seven, whether there is any chance of a possible convergence," said one diplomat.
What is clear is that the non-inclusive process, where all delegations are invited to the informal TNC but only a few to the Green Room, has just become even more non-transparent and exclusive, as seven members are now doing the negotiating.
The coordinator of a large grouping of developing countries, who took part in the Green Room but is not invited be in the new G7 said he had complained to Lamy that many countries feel they and their issues were now being excluded.
It is understood that nine issues have been identified to be on the agenda of the G7, similar to the ones mentioned by Lamy as having been discussed in the Green Room. The six issues in agriculture are overall trade distorting domestic support (OTDS) including Amber Box and Blue Box, Cotton, market access formula for developed countries, sensitive products (including number and tariff rate quota expansion), Special Products (SP) and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM). The three NAMA issues are the formula and flexibilities, anti-concentration clause and sectoral initiatives.
outstanding issues such as preference erosion, tropical products, and
TRIPS are also being discussed through small group consultations. This
star of today's more public events was undoubtedly Mr. Kamal Nath, the
Indian Commerce Minister who arrived in
Nath got straight to work, attending the G33 meeting, having several bilateral meetings, addressing the TNC and holding a press briefing at which he spoke of the need to complete the WTO modalities because of the world economic crises, but stressed that he could not give up livelihood and survival imperatives of Indian farmers and fledgling industries in exchange for major developed countries' needs to preserve and increase prosperity of their already rich farmers and industries (see separate article).
Many "sticking points" remain that make it difficult to see how the G7 or later the Green Room can reach an agreement in so short a time remaining.
One of the most difficult issues is the agricultural special safeguard mechanism (SSM) for developing countries. Nath stressed there would be no deal unless an effective SSM that is easy to use and which addresses the problem of import surges is set up.
However, a leading G33 negotiator said that developing countries have come under heavy pressure to make more and more concessions. For example, at a small consultation on SSM in the past couple of days, the United States was still opposed to duties being allowed to be raised above the Uruguay Round rates.
It proposed that only very few products could be allowed to be raised above these rates, but under stringent conditions, including the new idea that different triggers must be set for products to qualify for the remedy of exceeding the Uruguay Round rates. This was not acceptable to the G33 countries.
The major developed countries are also understood to have agreed among themselves to press ahead with their proposals on anti-concentration in NAMA, that developing countries be restricted in their use of flexibilities so that a significant portion of any sector cannot make use of the flexibilities. This is opposed by many developing countries. +