Business as Usual or is WTO in Denial?

Linked with Focus on the Global South FGS.

Published on Focus on the Global South, by Aileen Kwa, 23 June 2007.

Some excerpts: In a concerted effort to smooth over the setback of the collapse in G4 talks in Potsdam on Thursday, Pascal Lamy quickly convened an informal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting at the WTO on Friday afternoon. He told Members that he had spoken to all four G4 ministers separately, “and that all four have told me that they want the process to continue here in Geneva”.

The Friday TNC meeting was described by an inside source as “too mechanical”, even “surreal”, and that people seemed to have gone back to business as usual. Beneath the surface, however, many questions remained unanswered. The meeting basically affirmed the Geneva multilateral process as central, and that, as Lamy put it, “From now on the process (is) conducted by the Chairs and myself”. Chairs are expected to release draft modalities by the end of June …

… There were 35 interventions from delegations at the TNC. The EU Ambassador said that the Potsdam discussions were useful. Major political differences, however, could not be bridged. He said that they were close to a “landing range” in agriculture, but not in NAMA. The EU was ready to pay a lot in agriculture, but that they needed reciprocity. The Round, he said, remains alive. The G4 process has run its course, it stops here and the process now reverts back to Geneva.

The US Ambassador said that there was need to move ahead with international efforts although “the path ahead is somewhat obscure”. He underscored the need to sustain the WTO as a multilateral instrument …

… The Brazilian Ambassador was reportedly the most candid. He said that Potsdam was a reality-check. It was a failure as the differences were not bridgeable …

… India said that they were “heavily disappointed but not disheartened”. Progress was made but differences remained wide. He underscored that the division between the G4 was not necessarily only between the G4 Members, but the same differences would also be found in the wider membership. The conflicts of interests, India said, will reflect potential problems in negotiating the Round.

Jamaica, on behalf of the ACP and G90 plus countries said that they stood ready to work with the Chairs, but the Ambassador underlined that the process should be transparent, inclusive and member-driven, and that sufficient time must be allowed for draft texts to be analysed by experts in capitals. Development should be at the core of the continuing work. Her statement was echoed by Zambia on behalf of the LDCs and Uganda, representing the Africa Group. (full text).

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