By Raghav Narsalay

For a change, pressure o­n the EU and the US is growing
The pressure o­n the EU and the US is growing as they see increasing number of developing countries indirectly supporting the G-22 (group of countries that has come together o­n agriculture issues) position. The result – EU and the US have resorted to dirty tactics of misinformation and trying to preach benefits associated with their versions of market-led liberalization to countries at a bilateral level.

For a change, pressure o­n the EU and the US is growing
The pressure o­n the EU and the US is growing as they see increasing number of developing countries indirectly supporting the G-22 (group of countries that has come together o­n agriculture issues) position. The result – EU and the US have resorted to dirty tactics of misinformation and trying to preach benefits associated with their versions of market-led liberalization to countries at a bilateral level.
During the bilateral between the US and Brazil o­n the 11th night, the US representatives lambasted Brazil for leading a "coalition of paralyzers". As if this defeatist allegation was not enough, the US representative (not so sure if it was the USTR himself) said that Brazil was wasting its time in revitalizing the struggle of the seventies and creating a north-south divide. Furthermore he stressed that negotiations are not about charity and said that Brazil would not benefit by formulating its trade positions o­n the principles of ‘welfare state’.
In response to this attack, Brazil today put out a strong press release without naming the US. The release said, "We are reaching the final days of the Cancun Ministerial. It is even important, at this stage, that we concentrate our efforts in trying to negotiate and not direct our energies at attacking countries or groups of countries."
The USTR is trying to now showcase how the representatives of the people in the US are getting increasingly concerned with the possibility of a stalemate o­n agriculture negotiations. This is being essentially done to pressurize Latin American countries and to tell them that it would be difficult to convince US Congress to give out goodies as a part of FTAA negotiations if they do not behave themselves at Cancun. For example the press advisory service of the USTR sent out a release, which said that Rep. Kolbe, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and a key player in the negotiation and passage of NAFTA, is getting increasingly concerned over the lack of progress to agree o­n a framework for continuing negotiations o­n reduction of agricultural subsidies and improved market access.

India puts EU and the US o­n the back foot
The highlight of the agriculture discussions today was the interaction between Ministers representing G-21, Pascal Lamy and Robert Zoellick and the Singapore Minister who is facilitating the Working Group o­n agriculture.
While putting the views of the G-21 to the meeting, Brazilian Minister Celso Amorin demanded a clear mention o­n the elimination of export subsidies in the revised text to be put out by the Singaporean Minister. Reacting to this demand, Pascal Lamy said that this was not agreed to at Doha. At this juncture the Indian Minister Arun Jaitley stepped in and read out the following line from paragraph 13 o­n Agriculture (from the Doha Declaration) which says, "Building o­n the work carried out to date and without prejudging the outcome of the negotiations we commit ourselves to comprehensive negotiations aimed at: substantial improvements in market access; reductions of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies; and substantial reductions in trade distorting domestic support."
The Indian Minister who is a lawyer clarified that the wording "without prejudging the outcome of negotiations" cannot be the same as "without prejudice", the latter being far less committal a wording than the former in terms of deriving negotiating output. According to delegates attending this meeting Lamy was left speechless for some time after the Indian Minister made this clarification.
Coming to the aid of Lamy, the Singaporean Minister Giorgio mentioned to the meeting that actually the context in which the negotiations o­n agriculture took place at Doha was "different" and that the language was thrashed out late in the night when negotiators were very tired and sleepy. Adding to Giorgio’s point, Lamy tried to impress o­n the Indian Minister that he was not there at Doha and "therefore did not know the context". But the Indian Minister asked Lamy to see the language in front of him rather than the context in which it was negotiated.
USTR Zoellick also tried to rescue Lamy by saying that the EU Trade Commissioner does not have the mandate to eliminate export subsidies. But as a delegate from a G-21 country put across, "Bob (i.e. Robert Zoellick) is not aware of the mandate which the EU Parliament has given Lamy o­n export subsidies. Even the left in the EU Parliament want Lamy to eliminate export subsidies".
Deputy USTR Allgeier goes berserk
"Brazil does not represent the interest of developing countries in the G-21. G-21 can unite in making demands, but whether they can move together into the negotiating mode is a big question" was the remark that a concerned Deputy USTR made today morning. He kept o­n stressing the point that many developing countries who he had met o­n 10th and 11th had told him that G-21 did not represent them. As expected he did not name these countries. He also mentioned that there were some weak spots in the G-21 and left it there.
EU now starts talking about retaining the Peace Clause
Speaking to the press in the morning Franz Fischler, the EU Agriculture Commissioner said that he would be happy to see the Cancun Ministerial delay the death of the Peace Clause between the US and the EU. o­ne can say that by positioning in such a way the EU is desperately trying to give a message to the US to not isolate it o­n agriculture. The EU is getting worried, as the US is now trying to break away the African countries from the EU shackles by pushing the position that it is export subsidies that are actually more dangerous to them in comparison to domestic support issues.
US has immediately latched o­n to this move by the EU, and Allgeier said that "there is value in extending the peace clause, but it has to be in the context of taking the negotiations forward."
Many other countries support the G-22 position tacitly
In their "confessionals" (the dirty word) to the Facilitator, countries like Ghana, Cameroon, Panama and others have also taken positions that have essential ingredients of the G-22 position, which is that EU and the US need to get rid of their domestic and export subsidies. But as per the spokesperson from the WTO, the emphasis of these countries seemed to be o­n removal of export subsidies.
The political scene o­n agriculture negotiations
On the basis of reports from delegates and from the press briefings that happened today o­ne can say the following o­n the political scenario o­n agriculture negotiations:
(a) EU is getting increasingly isolated o­n its position o­n export subsidies. It would have to invest a great deal of energy to pull even poor countries with it o­n its stand.
(b) The CAIRNS group seems to have given way to G-22 completely. This is a very critical development for the SP-SSM group who has never been able to digest the "market access" position of the CAIRNS group for valid reasons.
(c) The G-21 would have to work out a political strategy in order to have a common negotiating position which is inclusive and would remain viable and attract more countries during and after Cancun

Non Agriculture Market Access (NAMA)
As per the WTO spokesperson, there has been progress o­n NAMA negotiations. But it seems to be quite impossible to put a text o­n the basis of the inputs. The Facilitator to the NAMA Working Group mentioned that countries making presentations made it with specific numbers and sectors in mind. Hence the Facilitator is going to make an effort to come out with a framework for further movement so that the number game could be tackled at Geneva.
The US continues to link what it would give o­n agriculture to NAMA and Allgeier said that the broader agenda of market access is still very strong o­n the US agenda.

Singapore issues
The Minister Pettigrew addressing the press said openly that he has been listening to polarized positions with o­ne group completing opposing negotiations (the G-16 plus) and the other group pushing for negotiations. He also mentioned that there are some "fresh suggestions" that are coming from a very small set of countries that are ready to take intermediate positions. But he did not clarify o­n what these intermediate positions are.
But what has questioned the neutrality of Pettigrew as a Facilitator is the way in which he has taken positions o­n the interpretation of "explicit consensus". In stead of avoiding answering this question he categorically said, "Why should Members put up their hand if they agree to something. That is too mechanical." Shouldn’t Pettigrew be sacked for taking a public position rather than reflecting the opinion of the Membership o­n such a critical issue?
Speaking o­n the number of delegations opposing the initiation of negotiations o­n Singapore issues, the WTO spokesperson emphatically said that these are "substantial" in number.
This then leads us to a logical conclusion that there does not even exist a "consensus" to get into negotiations o­n Singapore issues. We need not even apply the litmus test of "explicit consensus".
Going o­ne step forward, the G-16+ countries, under the signatures of Rafidah Aziz, Minister of International Trade & Industry, Malaysia and Arun Jaitley, the Indian Minister, have written a formal letter to Pettigrew reflecting their opposition to the initiation of negotiations o­n Singapore issues. Significantly, these countries have annexed their versions of the four paragraphs o­n Singapore issues to this letter.

Development issues
As per reports from the WTO Secretariat o­nly 16 countries made presentations to Minister Kitui of Kenya who is facilitating the Working Group o­n Development issues. This Development issues include: implementation concerns; special and differential treatment; coherence; geographical indications; trade, debt and finance; transfer of technology.
According to the Secretariat reports, India and the EU have made demands for the establishment of special working group o­n implementation concerns that would report directly to the Trade Negotiations Committee. This proposal has been opposed by Israel and New Zealand.

Report o­n the Heads of Delegations Meeting
The Heads of Delegations met at 9:00 p.m. o­n the 12th night to hear the presentations of Facilitators and to understand the process to move forward. While this report was being just completed, we found that the Meeting was over. We suggested to the WTO Secretariat to have an immediate press briefing irrespective of the fact that it was 11:00 p.m.
The following are some of the important issues that have come out of this briefing:
(a) Some of the Facilitators have already submitted their revised texts to Minister Derbez, the Chair of the Ministerial Conference. The others were planning to do so latest by tomorrow morning.
(b) Derbez is then expected to put these texts into a Draft Ministerial Text and put a comprehensive draft by lunch time by handing it formally to the Heads of Delegations.
(c) This would be followed by a recess wherein the Heads of Delegations are expected to share the comprehensive draft with their respective delegations, get inputs etc.
(d) Heads of Delegations would o­nce again come back at a specified time to report back their views to the Ministerial.
(e) o­nce these views are heard, the Supachai and Derbez will start holding meetings in "variable formats". It is expected that Members would start holding their bilaterals and other kinds of meetings parallely. This implies that green rooms are going to be formally born tomorrow.
(f) o­nce again a Heads of Delegation meeting would be conducted to understand the kind of consensus that is emerging.
(g) This would be followed by a meeting of the Members that would be expected to adopt the Draft Ministerial Text.
The WTO spokesperson kept o­n saying that the Ministerial would adopt a "Text" and may be not a "Declaration" as a "Declaration" was not required to provide guidance. The two questions that we need to ask are: Would we be diluting the political importance of the outcome of the Ministerial by using the word "Text"? Would "Text" imply the same level of commitment as a "Declaration"?
Probably why a "text" is being pushed forward at this stage can be understood from what the Facilitators had to report o­n various issues.
The Facilitator said that the presentations made, had provided some points of gravity and also contained ideas to accommodate all concerns. The Facilitator also found the much needed flexibility when Members have approached him.
On the Trade and Environment issue, Members seemed to be reaching a consensus o­n allowing observers/invitees (the word has to be decided) of MEAs to be present during Committee Meeting of the WTO
Also a consensus seems to be emerging o­n creating a multilateral registry o­n wines and spirits.
There seems to be a consensus emerging o­n the final dates by which Members would have to put in their initial offers
Singapore issues
The Facilitator reported that he had heard 56 delegations o­n this and there is clear polarization o­n the issue of initiation of negotiations and the way to move forward o­n these issues is not clearly visible.
Development issues
The Facilitator has already submitted a text to Chairman Derbez and the Facilitator feels that there has been some substantive progress o­n these issues.
NAMA talks
These have reached a phase in which they would have to be consolidated and the Facilitator urged the Members to show flexibility to help consolidate these negotiations.

Thus we now enter a very critical phase of the Ministerial Conference wherein strong posturing has to translate into strong, inclusive positions that would retain the political unity of countries even after Cancun. Derbez would have to be checked every time he tries to adopt a process. Although he has been saying a lot about maintaining transparency, o­ne cannot forget that his personal virtue is under the pressure of powerful vices.
Green rooms seem to have become a permanent feature and it would be very important for all of us to ensure that negotiations do not take place if they are in going to be in green rooms. We also need to have good political strategies o­n this.
The way in which the process during the next two days is going evolve clearly shows that Delegations are going to have hardly 32-36 working hours to come to a conclusion o­n issues that are going to define the livelihoods of billions of people. This is absolutely, the ‘theatre of the absurd’. This time pressure cooker is going to push a number of smaller delegations under tremendous pressure and that is going to harm the quality of final output.
Lets put our energies together and oppose this.