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WTO General Council Meeting: Daily update#1 - 27 July 2005


Update #1 27July 2005

The 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 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).


The July GC meetings will begin at 10am on 27 July and will continue on 29 July morning and end in the evening. On 28 July there will be a Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) meeting as well as a possible Heads of Delegation (HOD) meeting either on 28th evening or 29th morning. The July GC meeting has been pushed by the WTO secretariat and some member countries to achieve momentum on key areas especially Agriculture and NAMA (Non Agricultural Market Access) in preparation for the December Hong Kong Ministerial Conference. The GC meeting has been preceded by several consultations but even hours before the GC officially begins members are unable to converge on any of the major issues. The mood now is to downplay what was touted just a few months back as a major meeting to flesh out the first approximations of modalities in Agriculture and NAMA.


Agriculture: deadlocked

The main focus here is on the Market Access pillar of the AOA. Since the China Mini Ministerial at Dalian the so-called middle ground proposal of the G-20 has been used as the starting point for negotiations. This proposal calls for a banded approach to tariff reductions with 4 bands for developing countries and 5 for developed. Each band would be subjected to a linear tariff reduction approach with overall caps on high tariffs differentiated between developed and developing countries. The US has reacted to this by proposing a more ambitious formula while the EU is more defensive. Countries are not showing any signs of compromising from these positions.

NAMA: no convergence

In the informal NAMA meeting called by the Chair Ambassador Johanssen of Norway on 26 July 2005, it was said that there was no momentum to report since countries were diverging and it was difficult to reconcile their differences. The main issues being discussed include formula for tariff cuts and treatment of unbound tariffs. Movement on NAMA is closely linked to progress on the agriculture negotiations

Services: change in framework?

The danger in services is the recent proposal by the EU for a benchmark approach to speed up the negotiations. This proposal aims to identify 10 key sectors in the GATS and then ask developing countries to choose 6-7 sectors from this list. Countries will then be obliged to make a minimum level of commitments in these sectors. The EU has demanded that countries at the least should bind in already existing national liberalisation levels (autonomous policies that are outside of the GATS) and at the most go even beyond that. Nearly all developing countries have opposed this approach as it removes the flexibility in the GATS to pick and choose sectors for opening up. Another key issue for some developing countries is lack of movement on Mode 4 (temporary movement of labour).

Special and Differential (S&D) Treatment: still on the backburner Development , which was supposedly central to the Doha Round, has been relegated to the sidelines as a simple S&D issue. While developing countries submitted nearly 88 proposals on implementation issues what is now on the table is a dismal 5 proposals from LDCs. These deal with waivers, duty free access to developed country markets and the issue of deviation from TRIMS (Trade Related Investment Measures).

Process Politics: key to the outcome

Its business as usual in the WTO. Aside from the formal GC, a number of other meetings are rumoured to take place. These include the Trade Minister level meeting of the Five Interested Parties (FIPS = US, EU, India, Brazil and Australia) on Agriculture and informal sessions on Agriculture and NAMA. The G-10 (Switzerland, Bulgaria, Norway, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Israel, Liechtenstein, Mauritius) Ministerial Meeting is also expected to take place over the weekend.

If Ministers from some countries are present this will make the GC meeting highly political. Groups should be on alert especially in national capitals as key players could exert influence and the current situation could rapidly change in their favour. Reports from the WTO indicate that several developing countries feel left out and are not clear about what meetings will be called and if they will be invited to these. Several developing country members including Indonesia and the Philippines have expressed their pessimism over the outcome of the July GC meeting and have decided not to send a ministerial level delegation to the meetings.

For more information on the shenanigans in Geneva write to:

Jacques Chai Chomtongdi -
Joseph Purugganan - /
Benny Kuruvilla - /

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