Info Service on Trade and WTO Issues (Aug08/03)
Don't blame SSM for breaking the talks, say G33 Ministers
Geneva, 31 July (Martin Khor) -- For a long time to come, it will be debated whether the failure of the Geneva WTO talks this week was really caused by the deadlock over the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) in agriculture, or whether there were also other intractable issues that were not yet negotiated and would have prevented a successful conclusion.
Indonesian Trade Minister, Dr Mari Pangestu, who coordinates the G33,
does not believe that the SSM issue should be "blamed" for
being the issue that caused the overall breakdown of the
Antonio Contreras, Trade Minister of
Pangestu also said that the cotton issue should have been discussed before or at least at the same time as the SSM issue.
Referring to a claim (made, for example, by US Trade Representative Susan Schwab) that the SSM could be misused to obstruct normal trade, the Indonesian Minister said: "We felt we were accused of a crime we did not commit. Why should anyone say we are going to impede trade when we haven't done it? Presume us innocent for saying what we want it for (to protect farmers from import surges), and if we are guilty (of impeding trade), then use a mechanism to address this problem."
is the Minister who coordinates the G33, the group of 45 developing
countries that has championed the SSM and its twin issue, Special Products
(SP). The G33's mission is to ensure that food security, farmers' livelihood
security and rural development of developing countries are adequately
taken into account in the
G33 held a press conference on 29 July night, after the collapse of
the WTO talks. Present were Pangestu, the Venezuelan Trade Minister
William Antonio Contreras, and senior officials of the
In a brief statement, the Indonesian Minister said that the G33 members were all committed to a trade and development outcome. The package on the table had some promise including on special products. However, what remained of most concern to the G33 was the SSM, she said. "On one hand, we wanted a SSM that is easy and effective to use. We need a lower trigger. If you wait for the volume of imports to be so high (before you can use the safeguard measure), it is too late to help the livelihoods of the farmers.
"On the other hand, the aim (of the SSM) is not to impede normal trade. We recognised this and we were ready to negotiate and compromise. We were constructive all the time, we put time and effort to come up with our own suggestions for the text."
Pangestu said that when the Lamy text came on Friday, the G33 and other groups made their concerns clear, through a joint statement of over a hundred countries, which are a majority of WTO members. Yet, the G33 was willing to compromise.
"We are disappointed that the compromise on the SSM issue was not achieved," she said. "It was a reachable compromise. It cannot be said that the SSM was the issue that broke the talks. There were other issues that are important. But the opportunity to negotiate them never came. Other issues were not resolved like cotton and preferences."
if a SSM compromise could have been reached with a different configuration
other than the G7, for example, if
when she thought the WTO could recover from this failure and meet again
to boost the round, and whether the
as the G33 continue to put our faith in the multilateral trading system.
Many members in the Green Room wanted to continue the talks." She
said, however, that the timing of when the people from capitals (referring
to senior officials and Ministers) need to come back to
question was asked, how the G33 would respond to the non-G33 members
who say that the SSM would affect their exports. A senior
"If you look at SSG (i. e. the present special agriculture safeguard created by the Uruguay Round), the application of the measure is very sparse. There is no intention of developing countries to impede trade, which you can see from the experience of their use of the SSG."
Venezuelan Minister William Antonio Contreras said that the G33 members believe that you can't politically focus on only one aspect of the discussion, the SSM issue, and say that is what led to the failure of the Round.
"It has been suggested the SSM was the key to the failure. It is not the case. There was not much effort or discussion to resolve the cotton issue or the preference erosion issue. The developing countries expressed concern on treatment of these issues."
This point was followed up by a journalist who asked whether in the list of Lamy's issues in the meeting agenda, should he have taken up the cotton issue earlier than the SSM. The Indonesian Minister said: "Yes, it should have been the case, or at least it (cotton) should have been taken up in parallel. There were many issues of great development concern that should have been addressed."
Asked another journalist: Did the Minister regret that those who should have gone the extra mile with regard to the SSM did not do so?
Pangestu replied: "We were not in room, so we don't know why no compromise was possible. We don't know why a compromise couldn't be reached. There must have been other reasons.
"All we wanted was a balance between an effective instrument and also not impede trade. We felt we were accused of a crime we did not commit. Why should anyone say we are going to impede trade when we haven't done it? Presume us innocent for saying what we want it for (to protect farmers from import surges), and if we are guilty (of impeding trade), then use a mechanism to address this problem."
Another journalist persisted with the possibility that the SSM was used as an excuse. He asked: "Is it the case that members didn't really want a deal or wouldn't want to get on to other controversial issues?" Pangestu replied that she was not in the G7, and thus she could not answer the question.
last question was whether the Minister thought
"This is in line with G33 position," she concluded. +