Aileen Kwa
  Focus on the Global South

  “If the G4 delivers a breakthrough, we will see the package multilateralised within a day. If there is no G4 breakthrough, the Chairs will be called to deliver texts, taking “everybody’s” position into account.”    


African trade negotiator in Geneva

G4 (US, EU, Brazil and India) talks have so far not delivered. According to one negotiator from the G4:

  “There is nothing right now (in terms of stitching the deal together), but this does not mean that there will not be something soon. And if it happens, it could happen very quickly”.

  Even in G4 talks, the US has yet to put a concrete offer in domestic supports on the table since its last offer of October 2005. As such, G4 negotiations, whilst progressing on agriculture market access issues, remain stalled on the domestic supports pillar.

  According to the Director General, Pascal Lamy in his briefing to NGOs on 27th March, “G4 convergence is slower than hopped…and this is starting to create anxiety and frustration…”.

  There had been press speculation that a G4 deal might be delivered prior to the G33 Ministerial meeting last week. The dates have now been shifted to April, possibly after the French elections, or even in May when the OECD meets.

  Lamy’s Plans
  Lamy outlined two scenarios that could play out in the coming weeks:
  1)      Convergence takes place within the G4 on the “triangle issues”[1]
  2)      Convergence does not happen. “If the political momentum lapses, then Chairs will go back to centre stage. I don’t have a clear view on this and we have not discussed this”.

  When asked precisely how the Chairs will go about “multilateralising” a G4 deal in the first scenario, Lamy emphasised the centrality of the Chairs. His statements are rather ironic in the light of Crawford Falconer’s own statements last week when he was calling on Harry Potter to unlock the agriculture stalemate. According to Lamy,

  “We operate under the tradition that the Chairs run the process in normal negotiations. They table texts which are either working texts, texts which are part of the consultation process (whether he meant G4 consultation is unclear), their own process, options, feedback or their feeling of where the Members are, or compromise texts which the Chairs believe could represent possible trade-offs… some kind of draft agreement. In between the working papers and the draft agreement, there are possible intermediate steps”.


  “The G4 is trying to get comfort that these elements (of the triangle) can find a landing zone. How would that feed into the normal process? Chairs are kept in the loop and the knowledge they have allows them to shoot in the zone that could be a consensus than if this were not there. A possible G4 convergence would be taken on board by the Chairs and if necessary, changed. It is up to them to make the judgment.

  “Falconer (the Agriculture Committee Chair) has said that he is working on texts without giving a definition of what stage these texts would be – technical, compromise or half and half. He is simply giving the signal that the time has come to go back to papers on the table.”

  One African negotiator, clearly disapproving of the process and the likelihood of Chairs delivering their own texts reflecting the positions of the majors said, emphasizing the parentheses he uses:

  “If the G4 delivers a breakthrough, we will see the package multilateralised within a day. If there is no G4 breakthrough, the Chairs will be called to deliver texts, taking “everybody’s” position into account.”

There have been rumours in Geneva that the breakthrough could be “more than the July framework but less than full modalities”. However, Lamy did not think that a breakthrough could take place without concrete numbers.

“I cannot imagine what this would look like”.

He also confirmed that the Secretariat was planning a possible Mini Ministerial before the expiration of the US trade promotion authority on 30th June.

“Among the scenarios we are working on, this is one of them”.

African delegations are very worried that the G4 package will be shoved down their throats. Some African delegations are meeting this week in Nairobi to chart their strategy should there be a G4 convergence.In the meantime, US and EU are also in bilateral talks with certain African Ambassadors this week in Geneva.  The G4 will reconvene next week, this time in Paris. And finally, to tune up the multilateral machinery (either in preparation for the G4 convergence, or for the Chair-led process to deliver compromise texts), Crawford Falconer has resumed the agriculture committee meetings this week. However, as one Secretariat staff commented, given that members are still waiting on the G4,

“There will not be any real negotiations there”.


 [1] The triangle issues include market access in agriculture, domestic supports in agriculture and market access in industrial products.