Protestors at the WTO HQ
aim of this update from Geneva is to give a quick snap shot of the
state of play surrounding the ongoing negotiations during the General
Council (GC) of the WTO. The information in this bulletin is from the
daily briefings at the General Council of Peoples (which is the
parallel civil society meeting organised by the Geneva Peoples Alliance
from 27-29 July 2005).
TRADE NEGOTIATIONS COMMITTEE MEETING (TNC): stalemate continues…
TNC met yesterday to hear a number of reports including one from
Director General Supachai on his consultative process on outstanding
implementation issues as well as reports from the chairpersons of
agriculture, NAMA, services, and the dispute settlement body.
Consistent with earlier assessments, the general message from TNC
meetings is that the negotiations remain stalled with no progress in
many of the issues on the negotiating table. On agriculture, Chair Tim
Groser’s much anticipated paper presented nothing new. Entitled
‘Looking Forward to the Hongkong Ministerial’ the report was an attempt
on the Chair’s part to present the fact that the negotiations on
agriculture are stalled and yet at the same time identify crucial
decision points where, as he said, ‘clear political decisions’ would
have to be taken to restart the negotiations and pave the way for a
successful Ministerial meeting in December.
On market access in agriculture, unlike previous assessments
of a convergence on the G20 proposal, the report also recognized the
reservations expressed by some Members. The G10 (a group of countries
with protectionist interest in agriculture) has expressed its
opposition to the proposal, particularly on the issue of maximum tariff
rates or caps, an integral element of the G20 proposal. The US EU game
on their interpretations of the G20 proposal on this continues (see
Update # 1).
While it is claimed
that the export competition pillar has seen progress, there is still a
stalemate over issues concerning food aid and state trading enterprises
(STE). Neither has there been any substantive progress on SP and SSM.
In an attempt to move ahead the negotiation on this matter, the G33 is
trying to come up with indicators necessary for defining product
Dump the July Framework!!
NAMA, again the report of the Chair Johansson inexplicably expressed
what he saw as growing support for the Swiss Formula for tariff
reduction and increasing convergence around a non-linear approach to
treat unbound tariffs. However, the Chair’s interpretation regarding
the Formula was strongly rejected by India and Kenya.
On GATS, a
total of 92 countries (out of the 148) have now tabled offers.
Developed countries have all made offers while 24 developing countries
are still to make their initial offers. Of the 24, South Africa and
Venezuela have been identified as critical to the negotiations. It is
expected that strong pressures would be exerted on these two countries
as the services negotiations move forward. Countries with offensive
positions are seeking a new deadline, if possible with benchmarks to
measure the “quality” of the offers. It is expected the QUAD countries
would set their own benchmarks and would most likely use these to
negotiate with other countries.
Yesterday’s other important
news, which could have an impact on progress in the WTO, was the
217-215 vote in the US Congress in favor of the CAFTA (Central American
Free Trade Agreement). With the win on CAFTA, some feel that the US
would now push for intensification of the talks.
PROCESS: LAMY’S ENTRY AND THE NEW QUIPS
the discussions on the substantive aspects remain lackluster, a number
of developments on process and structure are worth watching. The
incoming New Zealand Ambassador Crawford Falconer will now replace Tim
Groser as Chair of the Agriculture Committee. Together with Pascal Lamy
who will assume the Director General post as of 1st of September, they
are expected to play a crucial role in driving the Agriculture
negotiations full speed ahead in the coming months. In his stint as the
EU Trade Commissioner, Lamy was known for his valiant defense of the
EU’s CAP (Common Agriculture Policy). It will be interesting to see how
he wears his new hat.
Another impetus to push the negotiations
forward not just on agriculture is the increasing interaction between
the US, EU, Brazil and India, now referred to as the new QUAD (the QUAD
are 4 most powerful countries in the WTO – US, EU, Canada and Japan) or
the QUIPS (the acronym is supposedly a combination of FIPS and QUAD). A
QUIPS meeting has been scheduled for September.
THE REAL ACTION: PROTESTS CONTINUE
actions continued yesterday adding life to what was otherwise an
uninteresting day in Geneva. Around 20 people mostly from the Seattle
to Brussels network (a European network working on WTO issues) staged a
demonstration in front of the EC Building protesting the control of
corporate lobbies over the EU. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson
was greeted with a giant Peter Mandelson puppet controlled by strings
being pulled by huge corporations. The stunt almost did not materialize
as the Swiss Police earlier prevented the activists from proceeding to
the EC building.
CORPORATE LOBBYING: JUST A PHONE CALL AWAY
a session at the General Council of the People, European groups
comprehensively exposed the EU’s corporate agenda on NAMA and services.
While the initial rhetoric post-Doha was that this was a development
round, it is now clear from EU Trade Commissioner Mandelson’s
statements that this round is a pro-corporate one and the European
Commission’s (EC) primary role would be to open up markets in the south
for its corporations. There are over 15,000 lobbyists in Brussels, the
seat of the EC. When questioned by an activist on how exactly lobbying
works in Brussels, one lobbyist confessed “We don’t need to do much…
when the Director General of Trade wants to frame a request on GATS he
just calls us up and asks me want I want.”
DAY 2 OF THE GC MEETING: No show again; maybe better luck in Autumn
meeting ended at 1pm and the members thanked outgoing DG Supachai.
Pascal Lamy made an appearance as DG designate and announced his Deputy
DG’s which include the Ambassadors of Chile and Rwanda. The Jamaican
Ambassador made a highly critical intervention where he stated that
‘development’ was sadly lacking in this new round. This was reiterated
by the Kenyan Ambassador.
his final formal address to the Membership Supachai stressed the need
for checkpoints in the road to Hong Kong. A number of crucial meetings
will take place from now until the Ministerial meeting. Besides the G20
(possibly together with the G33) meeting in Pakistan in September,
there will be a mini-Ministerial meeting most probably in Geneva in
early October, and the General Council Meeting, also in Geneva, on 19 –
Despite the disappointment over the GC failure members reiterated their commitment to the Doha work programme.
For more information on the shenanigans in Geneva write to:
Jacques Chai Chomtongdi – [email protected]