Azevêdo: main Geneva negotiations should be done by end-October

With just ten weeks to go until the WTO’s ministerial conference in Bali members have spent the last month feverishly working to prepare a final set of deliverables in time for December. Since Roberto Azevêdo formally took office as Director-General on 1st September, members have been engaged in an intense series of consultations on all the Bali topics: trade facilitation, agriculture, and issues related to developing and least developed countries.

Azevêdo has said that, “from the 14th October onwards, we will be in the final countdown” with members ready to conclude the main part of their Geneva negotiations by the end of the month. He warned that there is still a long way to go in order to clinch a deal in time for the December summit.

Trade facilitation

Concerns still remain over how to resolve differences over flexibilities for developing countries. These countries have long been wary of taking on potentially “onerous” commitments that could prove difficult and costly to put into effect. Some developed countries, however, have stressed that obligations need to be binding in order for a trade facilitation pact to yield any benefits.

One trade official said. “It’s a chicken-and-egg question – do you commit to the funding first, or do you commit to binding rules first with the expectation of then getting assistance.”

Agriculture: “peace clause” gains traction

The proposal from the G-33 coalition for providing increased flexibility to developing countries for building food security stockpiles and domestic food aid has been the subject of “intensive consultations” in recent weeks.

Notably, the idea of a “peace clause” – a restraint mechanism that would prevent WTO members from launching disputes in a certain area – has continued to gain momentum. However, there are still many open questions over how such a clause might work. For instance, whether it would be political or legally binding; what timeframe would it be applicable for; what it would cover; and what would be a possible path to a long-term solution after Bali.

Monitoring Mechanism advances; complications for “Cancún 28″ proposals

Discussions on the so-called Monitoring Mechanism – to review provisions in WTO rules for Special & Differential Treatment for developing countries and suggest improvements – have reportedly advanced in recent weeks.

However, questions remain over the mechanism’s function – whether it will focus on reviewing proposals, or on their implementation – as well as over the nature of the recommendations it will be allowed to make to WTO bodies and its relationship with those bodies.

Discussions on the Cancún 28 proposals – a series of proposals on S&DT that were agreed in principle, though not “harvested”, at the WTO’s fifth ministerial conference in Cancún in 2003 – appear to be no longer on the table. The LDC Group and the African Group have now asked that the 28 proposals be considered for adoption as a single package to ensure that those with the most economic value are adopted.

LDC issues: revised rules-of-origin proposal tabled

Proposals from the LDC Group on cotton and on operationalising the services waiver are still forthcoming. However, differences within the group on duty-free, quota-free market access currently remain unresolved, given the fear of some LDCs of preference erosion.

The LDC Group has submitted a revised proposal on rules-of-origin, which was reportedly well-received by many members.

Extracts from a longer piece in Bridges Weekly – Read the full article here

Summary

With just ten weeks to go until the WTO’s ministerial conference in Bali members are feverishly working to prepare a final set of deliverables in time for December. Roberto Azevêdo, who formally took office as Director-General on 1st September, has said that, “from the 14th October onwards, we will be in the final countdown” with members ready to conclude the main part of their Geneva negotiations by the end of the month. He warned that there is still a long way to go in order to clinch a deal in time for the December summit.

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter