TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Aug08/11)
13 August 2008
Third World Network

Trade: Rules meeting postponed, new text won't be issued
Published in SUNS #6532 dated 6 August 2008

Geneva, 5 Aug (Martin Khor) -- Diplomats remaining in Geneva are awaiting the issuing of reports of the negotiations during the July talks by the Chairs of the negotiations on NAMA (Ambassador Don Stephenson of Canada) and agriculture (Ambassador Crawford Falconer of New Zealand). The reports are expected any time now.

Another development is the postponement of a scheduled meeting on the negotiations of rules (including anti-dumping and fishery subsidies) and uncertainty over the nature of future meetings of the Rules negotiating group.

This is a sign that a cloud of uncertainty is now hanging over the meetings on issues such as rules, services, and TRIPS, now that the modalities for agriculture and NAMA were not settled due to the failure of the mini-Ministerial meeting last week.

On 31 July, a fax was sent to WTO delegates by Ambassador Guillermo Valles Galmes, Chairman of the Negotiating Group on Rules, reminding them that in his report to the Trade Negotiations Committee dated 17 July 2008, he had indicated that, in the event modalities were achieved in Agriculture and NAMA, he intended to convoke a series of intensive meetings right after the summer break, beginning 1 September.

He had also indicated that he would circulate certain documents as soon as possible after modalities were achieved, and in any event well in advance of those September meetings.

"Obviously, we have not yet, in spite of our efforts, succeeded in achieving modalities in Agriculture and NAMA," said the fax.

"Under these circumstances, some further reflection is required regarding our work programme. I am thus not yet in a position to provide full clarity regarding our schedule in the early fall."

The Chair said that he would not begin the Rules meetings on 1 September but probably in the week of 15 September instead.

A trade official said that it was probable that the revised Chair's text on Rules, that was supposed to be prepared after a first round of meetings in September, would now not be prepared, because of the lack of an outcome on agriculture and NAMA modalities.

According to some diplomats, the "further reflection" that is required for Rules, will probably also apply to services, the TRIPS issues (relations with CBD and geographical indications) and possibly other issues like trade facilitation.

It is unlikely that any progress will be made on these issues, until negotiations re-start on agriculture and NAMA, said the diplomats. And it is unclear at this stage whether the agriculture and NAMA negotiations will begin after the August break, or if they are to be kept on hold. +