WTO Agriculture Framework Drafted
Representatives from the US, EU, Brazil, India, and Australia ''burn the midnight oil''
GENEVA, Switzerland - 07/30/04 - The World Trade Organization (WTO) is reporting progress on trade talks underway in Geneva, with the US, the European Union (EU), Brazil, India, and Australia reportedly reaching agreement on a blueprint for continuing negotiations related to agriculture - the hinge on which an overall WTO agreement will balance.
WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi made the announcement telling reporters that the agreement among the key five members was a "welcome and important input" into the talks.
Top trade officials of the 147-member WTO gathered in Geneva earlier this week to hammer out a framework for continuing the talks launched in late 2001 in Doha, Qatar, and scheduled to conclude at the end of 2004.
However, despite the progress, no new timetable has been set to wrap up what is being called the Doha Development Round, Supachai said, cautioning that no WTO agriculture framework deal is possible without support from the rest of the membership.
He was commenting on an agreement reached by ministers from Australia, Brazil, the EU, India, and the US in "midnight oil" consultations held outside the WTO.
Delegates from the five - which include representatives of other members, particularly the Cairns Group and G-20 - spent yesterday morning explaining their agreement privately to the representatives of various other trade blocs.
This followed a meeting with representatives of 27 WTO member countries - primarily members of the G-10 group - who had voiced their displeasure that with so little time before the 30 July deadline, they had been forced to accept a text without being given the opportunity of participating in its drafting.
Switzerland, which coordinates the G-10, read a statement to reporters saying the five should at least have "had the courtesy" to hold information sessions with the rest of the membership.
"Time pressure could not be used to justify forcing the text through, otherwise we might have saved the Doha Round but we might have killed the organization," the statement said. "We are sitting around waiting while others are negotiating."
Members of the G-33 group, repeated their insistence that developing countries be allowed the freedom to choose which products are "special" (and exempt from tariff reductions), that a special safeguard mechanism be created for developing countries, and that other forms of special and differential treatment be given to them, particularly if they are small and vulnerable.
At least one country - Paraguay - said the best way to strengthen smaller countries is not to protect domestic markets but to allow them to export.
The WTO agreement, if approved, will be an important step forward in the current "round" of negotiations that aims to boost the global economy by cutting tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to international trade, not just in farm goods, but in manufactured goods and in service industries like telecommunications and banking.
Although differences still remain in other areas, all agree that the big sticking point is agriculture, where positions are more entrenched. Many countries see agriculture as the foundation of their societies and are unwilling to give ground without guarantees that they will benefit from the deal.
Shotaro Oshima, the Japanese ambassador who chairs the WTO's ruling General Council, has said today is the final, "drop dead deadline" to reach the agreement - which was originally supposed to be approved at the trade organization's collapsed ministerial meeting last September in Cancun, Mexico.
Failure to reach that deadline will delay the trade round by months if not years, as the US presidential elections and political changes in other countries will prevent the WTO taking any major political decisions until at least next spring.
The meeting is expected by many to run into the early hours of tomorrow morning, and some diplomats said they were considering whether to change their plane tickets in anticipation that the meeting would be extended still further.
back, or read the latest Front Page stories:
US Seeks Stronger Ties With Brazil
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/13/06 – Rebounding from the failure to craft a Free Trade Area of the Americas pact, the Bush Administration is aiming at strengthening trade ties with Brazil in an effort to counter China’s fast-growing economic influence in Latin America; China should not only be seen as an export market with 1.3 billion consumers, but also as a nation of 1.3 billion ''new competitors,'' says US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Guittierez.
US Threatens WTO Action Against China
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/10/06 – The White House is threatening to slap China with a World Trade Organization case unless Beijing responds quickly to US concerns over its lack of action on securing intellectual property rights for US products; talks on bringing the WTO case are at a ''very advanced stage,'' according to a high level official in the Office of the US trade Representative.
High Hopes for Central American Trade Pact
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/08/06 – The US -Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) still faces some hurdles, but could become a reality ''very soon,'' according to Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick; the issues relating to government procurement, intellectual property rights and agriculture still need to be worked through, says the former US Trade Representative following a session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.