Info Service on Trade and WTO Issues (July08/41)
After four days, the fate of mini-Ministerial on knife edge
Geneva, 25 July (Kanaga Raja) -- WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) Friday progress "remains painfully slow" after four days of Ministerial-level negotiations, and warned that if there was no additional progress in 24 hours, the deal may not happen.
the meeting, four countries led by
At a media briefing Friday, WTO Spokesman Keith Rockwell said that Director-General Pascal Lamy began by explaining to members at the informal TNC meeting on what transpired in the G7 talks yesterday afternoon followed by the larger meeting of the Green Room, which ended around 10.00 pm.
Nine issues were discussed. The agriculture issues are overall trade-distorting domestic support (OTDS), cotton, market access formula for developed countries, sensitive products, Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism. The NAMA issues are the formula and flexibilities, the proposed anti-concentration clause and sectoral initiatives.
Lamy said that he considers these nine areas to be the most difficult and urgent, and they are therefore the key to possible progress in other areas as well.
Group Chairs Ambassador Crawford Falconer of
Lamy said some convergences have been recorded but progress remains painfully slow after four days of ministerial-level negotiation. "We will need to change gears very quickly to turn things around in the limited time remaining."
On substance, Lamy said that there was agreement to work within the ranges in the draft modalities texts, but serious differences remain between the low end and the high end of many ranges.
overall trade-distorting domestic support (OTDS) in the
On the cotton issue, this is linked inextricably with the cuts in trade-distorting domestic support.
With respect to tariffs that exceed 100%, members discussed the ranges in the agriculture Chairman's text but did not achieve any convergence.
On the question of sensitive products, members discussed both the numbers and treatment of these products. There was some convergence on the number of products which may be designated as sensitive by members, but there are still problems for some countries.
Differences also persisted in the size of tariff rate quotas as a percentage of domestic consumption that should be provided as compensation for sensitive products. There was limited discussion on whether members should be permitted to create new quotas of this nature as this issue is linked to the broader issue of the number of tariff lines that would be designated as sensitive.
On special products (SPs), Lamy said that we are not there yet on both the number of tariff lines and the exemption of a certain percentage of those lines from any tariff cut.
Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) is obviously a major issue, said Lamy. There was positive engagement and some ideas were floated with the Negotiating Group Chair Ambassador Falconer, who is following up on this. With respect to the existing Special Safeguard, there were some signs of flexibility.
On NAMA, the Director-General said that there has been limited progress in narrowing the ranges for formulas and flexibilities.
On anti-concentration, there was some limited signs of flexibility, with references being made to possible numbers of national tariff lines and the values of trade. There was some sympathy for the suggestion that small chapters containing very few tariff lines should be exempted from the application of this anti-concentration clause.
On sectoral arrangements, members explored the possibility of language that would make clear the non-mandatory nature of the sectoral proposal, while at the same time, allowing for its operationalization.
Chair Don Stephenson reported to members on his separate consultations
involving non-reciprocal preferences, small and vulnerable economies,
and treatment for
Lamy said there is still time to turn the talks around, but positions must move radically in the next round including in the small group. "If we do not see this rapid progress towards convergence, I am afraid that the deal you all came here to do this week, will not happen with all the attendant consequences."
This is the blunt reality, he said. The situation is critical, edging between success and failure. "If you, the negotiators, show no further flexibility to deliver outcomes that take account of different interests in the next hours, you will face the serious consequences of failure. Time is running out and the next 24 hours are crucial."
Lamy said the formal TNC scheduled for Saturday as well as the services signalling conference would be postponed.
is a very close link between the issues he is discussing and the developments
in the overall
On the multilateral register for wines and spirits, there are a few differences on the legal effects of any registration. On GI extension and the TRIPS/CBD link, important differences remain on mandate and process and on substance.
about the process,
Lamy himself said a text by him was not the way for convergence. There would be no surprises. What we have before us are texts that are the result of over a year's worth of work by all the members. These texts are the basis for discussion and the answer lies inside these texts, but revisions are required.
These revisions will be continuing in terms of efforts being made and that all members will have a say, and indeed all members will have to decide on whether or not an overall package is acceptable, said Lamy.
To a question on options in case of a failure of the talks, the WTO Spokesman said that the Director-General is not working on Plan B. He is working on Plan A and that is the only thing he will do as long as Ministers are prepared to keep working very hard.
the end of the informal TNC meeting, a trade diplomat said that
trade diplomat said that in the larger Green Room meeting yesterday,
Lamy was pressed for a road-map, but he was non-committal.
Speaking to journalists just before the start of the G7 meeting Friday noon, Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said that this Round is not about perpetuating structural flaws in global trade.
if this was the last chance for the
On Thursday night, after the Green Room meeting, Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said that "the mood is still positive. Everybody is still looking for convergence. There has been a bit of progress on convergence, but we are not quite there yet."
She said that "SP and SSM are not the only issues without convergence. There are many other issues which are still pending, including OTDS and sensitive products."
Brazilian Minister Celso Amorim said there is engagement. Noting that others may have a more pessimistic view, he said that he prefers to sound constructive. "I know there are difficulties all around. Everyone has to make concessions, and that applies to both defensive and offensive preoccupations if we want to conclude this.
"It is not as if some people can have the red-lines absolute and others, red-lines are relative. That's how we are working. So far, there was no break-up, there was engagement..."
However, there is not much time, he said, adding that "I think tomorrow (Friday) is the day in which we must know whether it's possible or not. Maybe we don't finish everything but we must have an idea if it's possible or not."
Trade Representative Susan Schwab said that "we had a few things
"We put our offer on the table... some countries are stretching more than others and we'll see tomorrow (Friday)..." +