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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb07/16)

24 February 2007
 
 
In Indonesia, Lamy faces protesters suspicious of his "SP mission"

The WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy faced demonstrations by farmers and NGOs concerned that his visit to Indonesia is aimed at getting the government to dilute the "food security" demands of the Group of 33 in the WTO's Doha negotiations.
 
Protestors turned up at a hotel in which Lamy was addressing a seminar on the Doha Round. They held up a banner stating "SP/SSM means Stop Preaching - Save Southern Market". The banner was removed by police and a demonstrator was arrested.
 
The banner was referring to the demands by the Group of 33 countries (which Indonesia coordinates at the WTO) that the concepts of Special Products (SPs) and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) be implemented in concrete terms in the Doha talks.
 
Indonesia's Trade Minister said the country would stand firm in its position on SPs.  Lamy made a speech on the latest WTO situation at a forum.
 
Below is a report on the visit.
 
Best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN
 
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In Indonesia, Lamy faces protesters suspicious of his "SP mission"
 
Jakarta, 21 Feb (TWN), published in the SUNS 22 Feb 2007 


The WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has been facing demonstrations by farmers and NGOs concerned that his visit to Indonesia is aimed at getting the government to dilute the "food security" demands of the Group of 33 in the WTO's Doha negotiations.
 
Protestors turned up at a hotel in which Lamy was addressing a seminar on the Doha Round. They held up a banner stating "SP/SSM means Stop Preaching - Save Southern Market". The banner was removed by police and a demonstrator was arrested.
 
The banner was referring to the demands by the Group of 33 countries (which Indonesia coordinates at the WTO) that the concepts of Special Products (SPs) and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) be implemented in concrete terms in the Doha talks.
 
SPs refer to special products important to developing countries for food security and farmers' livelihoods (and which the G33 says should be subjected to lenient tariff reduction), while SSM refers to a mechanism proposed by the G33 that developing countries can use to increase their tariffs if there is a surge in imports or a fall in import prices.
 
Lamy is on a two-day visit to Indonesia, after which he goes to the Philippines.  Both countries are leaders of the G33, sparking speculation that the Lamy visit to the two countries are to persuade their political leaders to compromise on their positions on SP/SSM.
 
At Wednesday's demonstration in front of the hotel where Lamy was speaking at a forum, hundreds of farmers carried banners calling for Lamy to go home and for the WTO not to meddle in agriculture and in people's sovereignty.
 
According to a Jakarta Post report, Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said that Indonesia will remain firm in its stance favouring "special product exemptions" during the Doha negotiations, brushing aside concerns that the country might compromise on its position in light of the visit of Director General Lamy.
 
Hundreds of protesters marched Tuesday in Jakarta, while civil rights NGOs held a
seminar dominated by allegations that Lamy's visit was intended to change Indonesia's stance on the issue.
 
Responding to questions on the allegations, Trade Minister Pangestu said that the G33, which Indonesia chairs, would remain firm in promoting what is known as the "Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism" (SP-SSM). "The G-33 will remain firm in its position. Moreover, we will invite him (Lamy) to a G-33 forum," she said.
 
"Don't forget, the Doha Round is supposed to be a development round. So, it should emphasize development issues, and not sacrificing the interests of the developing countries," said Bonnie Setiawan, Director of the Institute for Global Justice (IGJ).
 
"We hope that the Indonesian government will continue to put the nation's interests first, and not sacrifice SP-SSM."
 
The NGOs presented an open letter to Lamy during a workshop. According to NGO sources, Lamy responded to the letter by saying that the SP/SSM concept has already been agreed to.
 
But he added that the problem lies with the parameters of SP and how many products are to be covered. "He also tried to avoid criticism by saying that his job is to put pressure on everybody and said that he is putting pressures more on developed countries," said an NGO source.
 
"It is clear now that Lamy actually is pushing for a free trade round and not trade as a tool for development, even though [the] Doha Round should be regarded as a development round," said the NGO.
 
"Lamy's visit is regarded by NGOs as a 'SP tour' since he is only visiting Indonesia and Philippines, two main proponents of SP/SSM, to convince the two countries of his mission."
 
The rally and demonstration by 500 persons held in front of the hotel on Wednesday was organized by FSPI (Indonesian Federation for Farmers Union) and coalition 'Gerak Lawan' (Move and Fight).
 
In their letter to Lamy, the Indonesian NGOs said that they fully support the SP and SSM proposal by the G33 to protect small farmers against cheap import surges.
 
"The positions of [the] G-33 is not a stumbling block to the Doha Agenda negotiations. Rather, the EU and the US are the stumbling block as they refuse to substantially decrease their subsidy and keep on shuffling subsidies among the boxes. A fair negotiation process should take those countries to task rather than question the position of the G-33, and it is your duty as the Director General to ensure a fair, transparent, and participatory negotiation process, rather than pressure developing countries.
 
"We are very concerned about the repeated violations against democracy, transparency and participatory principles of negotiations at the WTO. We ask that you cease to abuse your mandate as the WTO Director General by refraining from putting pressures on governments of developing countries to weaken their positions and to compromise their development agenda. We ask you to instead  ask developed countries to lead by example by fulfilling their commitments and not manipulating the negotiations."
 
Speaking at a forum in Jakarta on Wednesday, Lamy said that after a period of suspension, the negotiations are buzzing again, with members working at three levels. First,  political leaders in many countries have expressed their support and full engagement to conclude this round.
 
Second, trade ministers in key countries are doing shuttle diplomacy, testing numbers, looking into specifics, and trying to reach convergence. Third, senior officials and experts are also discussing in the different negotiating groups in Geneva.
 
Lamy added that three issues are at the forefront of the discussion - agricultural subsidies, agricultural tariffs and industrial tariffs. Work is also on-going on trade in services to prepare the improved offers.
 
He said that what is on the table today is not enough to lead us to success. All parties need to make a greater contribution, starting with agriculture. The US has to accept cuts in its subsidies beyond its current offer. The EU and G-10 have to agree to greater cuts in agriculture tariffs beyond their current position.
 
He added that India and the G33 countries also have to show flexibility and clarify their position in agricultural market access on special products and the special safeguard mechanism. If we are to reach a result, all Members have to show flexibility. No one is being asked to undertake disproportionate commitments.  Each country will have to make its contribution, with big players contributing more than smaller and weaker ones.

 


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