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TWN Info Service on Trade and WTO Issues (Aug08/02)
4 August 2008
Third World Network

Trade: Need for new ideas and solutions, Lamy tells General Council
Published in SUNS #6530 dated 4 August 2008

Geneva, 31 July (Kanaga Raja) -- "Where there has been a deadlock, new ideas and new solutions must be found," WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told a meeting of the General Council Thursday, just two days after the collapse of the ten days of Doha-related talks in Geneva.

These remarks were in Lamy's report to the General Council in his capacity as Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), which oversees the Doha negotiations.

The Council was informed that the Chairs of the agriculture and NAMA negotiations would shortly issue their own reports of what happened in recent negotiations. The Council was also informed that in the view of the EU, the banana deal it reached on 28 July with Latin American producers was no longer valid as the EU considered it as part of a package of modalities, but that the modalities were not attained.

Referring to the statements made by Members at the formal TNC meeting on Wednesday, Lamy said there were multiple strong calls for preserving the package that had been negotiated in order to conclude the Round successfully.

Lamy said that Members believe the Doha Round is still worth fighting for. No one is throwing in the towel. "But, we have to be lucid: given where the negotiation broke down, building on the progress made so far will not be easy and we should be under no illusion as to what this week's failure means for the credibility of our collective endeavour," he added.

He suggested that all Members need to seriously reflect about how they do this. "In my view, where there has been deadlock, new ideas and new solutions must be found. This is a collective responsibility, and we must start right now."

In his report, the Director-General noted that the circulation of revised draft modality texts by the Chairs of Agriculture and NAMA on 10 July were the starting points for the process aimed at the finalization of modalities in these two key areas.

Lamy said: "This process failed to reach its goal, despite more than a week of very intensive negotiations. Members were unable to bridge their differences in the area of the Special Safeguard Mechanism. And we did not even get around to discussing Cotton."

Despite this setback to the goal of concluding the Doha Round in 2008, much was achieved, said Lamy. He cited members being "very close" to finalizing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA, and the unlocking of many other intractable issues.

He said the Agriculture and NAMA Chairs will shortly be circulating reports capturing the work of the last few days. He had issued his report on the 26 July Services Signalling Conference. The reports underline the progress made and the range of benefits of the Round.

The TNC meeting made clear no one wants to see all of that go to waste, added Lamy. And we did not have the blame game that usually follows intensive and tough bargaining when it does not work.

The Chair of the NAMA Negotiating Group, Ambassador Don Stephenson of Canada took the floor and in what was described as a humorous intervention said that the paper that he will be putting out later Thursday or Friday, on his own responsibility, will be called the "NAMA Sutra".

He added in jest that "it shows you how to use your tariff overhang to get maximum pleasure for your trading partners."

Several countries spoke at the meeting. Cameroon said that the banana deal that had been done (between the EC and the MFN banana suppliers) was one about which they had concerns. It may make it difficult to accept an agriculture and NAMA modalities package.

Bolivia wanted to know what was meant by the TNC "taking note" of the reports
(of the Chairs of various groups). It said the TNC had been said to have taken note of these "at the speed of light", but it was unclear which of the Chairs' reports had been referred to as the Chairs had also been requested not to make presentations and there was no discussion.

It understood that only the Chairs' reports circulated at the meeting were "taken note of", and this did not include the reports on TRIPS/CBD and services. Its objections to having a services text were well known. Bolivia also wanted to know why its proposed amendment to the TRIPS Agreement to ensure that life-forms could not be patented was not included in any paper.

Pakistan, on behalf of the "middle-ground countries" (Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Hong Kong-China, Peru, Singapore and Thailand), said we need to restart the process in September to consolidate and preserve the gains achieved, and the progress needs to be captured suitably.

Bangladesh disagreed with the view that what happened this week will severely damage the multilateral trading system. The organization has shown its tenacity this week, and shown it can deal with highly complex issues. Progress has been made on issues such as duty-free quota-free market access for LDCs. The signalling conference was a success. We need to lock in progress.

Venezuela mentioned that some members say that progress has been made but some other members do not support the package that has been discussed. Some have objections to it. Any papers that emerge should be the subject of discussion and revision. Venezuela hoped that new ideas are put forward, including on procedures and the process to improve transparency and inclusiveness.

Argentina said that the progress in the agriculture and NAMA modalities has not been discussed in the wider membership, and thus whatever is put out by the Chairs is under their own responsibility.

Costa Rica said that we need to get back to the negotiating table as soon as possible. Uruguay said that we need to capture the progress that has been made and we should start as soon as this week. We have to find a way to channel this progress.

According to the WTO spokesman, Keith Rockwell, the TNC Chair said that the many statements made at the formal TNC meeting on Wednesday would be read into the record of the General Council as well.

In response to a question, Rockwell confirmed that the General Council took note of the report of the TNC Chair. Asked if this meant that the General Council also took note of the failure of the talks, Rockwell said "I think that you can probably go along with that... There were very few people who disagree with the notion that the talks had failed."

Also taken up at the General Council meeting was the agenda item on the non-recognition of rights under Article XXIV: 6 and XXVIII of GATT 1994 (communications from Honduras and Guatemala).

(Honduras and Guatemala are unhappy about the fact that with the expansion of the EU to include new members, they have seen their markets in those countries being curbed and they have not been able to negotiate with the EU as principal suppliers because, according to the EU, they don't meet the standards.)

According to Rockwell, the Latin American producers had a discussion about the banana agreement they had signed with the EU on 28 July. The Latin American producers are unhappy because they said that for them, this was a stand-alone agreement (which brought tariffs down to 114 Euros per tonne).

The EU maintained that the stand-alone agreement was actually the Director-General's proposal (put forth earlier), and that the 28 July agreement was on the understanding that this would be part of the modalities, but when the modalities were not agreed, the deal was also brought down.

On the agenda item of transparency for preferential trade arrangement, the WTO spokesman said that more time was needed for the recommendations, which will now be in December.

The Council also heard that a memorandum of understanding will be signed on 1 August by the Director-General and Swiss Federal Councillor for Foreign Affairs Micheline Calmy-Rey for the reconstruction, renovation and construction of a new building at the WTO headquarters. +

 


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