TWN Info Service on Trade and WTO Issues (July08/40)
28 July 2008
Third World Network

Trade: Fate of WTO week still between breakthrough and breakdown
Published in SUNS #6526 dated 28 July 2008

Geneva, 25 July (Martin Khor) -- For most of Friday, there was the atmosphere among official delegates and the media at the WTO that the Doha talks were inevitably heading for a breakdown sometime today or tonight.

After 5 p.m. however came a brief announcement from the WTO spokesperson Mr. Keith Rockwell that there were "encouraging signs" at the G7 meeting and that Lamy would convene a Green Room meeting (of 30-40 delegations) to transmit the encouraging signs to this larger group.

"It's been a productive few hours", said Rockwell, of the G7 meeting that started at noon Friday. "There was a spirit of cooperation, and it is time to bring the information to the larger group." He however did not provide any details.

Diplomats familiar with the process said that a meeting had been convened at the India Mission after 5pm for some G33 countries to inform them of what transpired at the G7 meeting and to get their response, before the Green Room meeting. Several bilaterals were also going on.

According to some sources, Lamy or some G7 members had put forward some figures, and these are now considered the "interesting ideas" on which more discussion would take place.

These figures include $14.5 billion for overall trade distorting support (OTDS) for US agriculture, 4% of tariff lines as the number of developed countries' sensitive products (with 4% of tariff quota expansion), and 12% of tariff lines for developing countries' special products (with 5% being SPs with no or very low tariff cuts).

In NAMA the figures bandied around were coefficients for developing countries that seem like the mid-points in the ranges in the NAMA Chair's paper: coefficient 20 (with flexibility for 14% of tariff lines limited to 14% of import value), coefficient 22 (with 10% flexibility and 10% limitation) and coefficient 25 (with no flexibility).

It is not clear, at press time, whether these are figures that were agreed to, or more likely are figures being discussed with no acceptance, as the term "interesting ideas" denote.

Rumours were rife all afternoon. At one stage the reports were that the G7 talks had collapsed, with one or the other Minister on the verge of walking out of the meeting. Then came the official announcement of "encouraging signs."

One delegate was of the view that the "interesting ideas" to be conveyed was a move to keep the difficult G7 talks alive by conveying to the larger Green Room that there has been some progress, and that the G7 would then be authorized to carry on its process.

The 5pm break and later Green Room meeting was also seen by some as a means for some of the G7 Ministers to get responses and especially support from other members of their respective groupings, such as the EU, the G20 and the G33.

At press time (7 pm Friday), the fate of the WTO's mini-Ministerial week was still on knife edge between breakthrough and breakdown. +