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By Network for Food Sovereignty
This document attempts to summarize the different positions of governments in the WTO negotiations since the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference. It is based on and draws on analytical contributions from policy research organizations, social movements, and civil society coalitions that monitor the WTO.
The document aims to offer an information resource to social movements, civil society organizations, elected representatives, and groups and individuals concerned about the situation of the Doha Round negotiations.
The collapse of the negotiations in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is nothing more than good news for the peoples of the world. Despite the efforts made by some delegations to "save" the Doha Round, the mini-Ministerial talks scheduled for June 29-July 2 were not fruitful either. Developing countries remained firm in their positions and did not give in to the demands of developed countries to provide greater access to agricultural, fishing, industrial and service markets, arguing that developed countries must first honor their commitments at length failed to reduce trade-distorting subsidies and promote a more balanced and equitable negotiating environment within the WTO.
This document attempts to summarize the different positions of governments in the WTO negotiations since the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference. It is based on and draws on analytical contributions from policy research organizations, social movements, and civil society coalitions that monitor the WTO (see the References section for more detail). The document aims to provide an information resource to social movements, civil society organizations, elected representatives, and groups and individuals concerned about the status of the Doha Round negotiations at this time. It describes some of the major events in general and provides a summary of the key issues in the agriculture, NAMA and services negotiations.
The focus of the negotiations at the meeting that recently collapsed was a "triangle" of issues made up of market access in agriculture; domestic support in agriculture, and access to the market for non-agricultural products (NAMA or NAMA for its acronym in English). In particular, pressure was concentrated on the European Union (EU) to improve its offer on the issue of access to the agricultural market, for the United States (USA) to improve its offer to reduce its domestic aid and lower its ambitions in the field for market access in agriculture and NAMA, and for larger developing countries to agree to further cuts in their industrial tariffs. While the EU and NAMA 11 indicated a willingness to compromise, the US was utterly reluctant to review its market access demands or agree to further cuts in its domestic support.
However, the battle is not over yet. In agriculture, industry and services, which make up the central nucleus of the economies of all countries, a 'give and take' of mutual concessions is still possible that will bypass the livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of millions of people. people who will not receive any benefit from the offers that are on the trade negotiation table today. Equally serious is the potential erosion of the sovereign rights of countries to protect the common good and public interests in their territories as a result of the commitments assumed in the WTO.
The negotiations are being carried out by the G6, made up of the US, the EU, India, Brazil, Australia and Japan. As always, the negotiations are top-down and not at all transparent, and it is very likely that the majority of WTO members can still be led to accept the trade package agreed by a minority. In a renewed offer to "save" the Doha Round, the G6 had planned two meetings in Geneva in July, first on July 23 and 24, and then again on July 28 and 29, also in Geneva. The July 23 meeting did not produce a new business package. It remains to be seen whether an agreement can be reached in the coming weeks.
In general, we can say that the following events and problems have been central to the current negotiations.
1. WTO Director General Pascal Lamy has been given the task of "facilitating" consensus among WTO members. This is extremely dangerous as Lamy is aware of the fears and insecurities of developing countries, especially the least developed countries (LDCs) and the Africa group, which have so far been very strong in defending their positions.
There has been concern that Lamy himself might come up with a draft negotiating text based on the "convergences" that he himself perceives. Lamy has also tried to shift the language of the negotiations to strengthen market access rather than development. Before and during the mini-Ministerial, he repeatedly mentioned the "new trade flows" that entail the reduction of mandatory tariffs in a country below the applied rate.
There was also a lack of clarity as to what Lamy's mandate actually entails. It is quite possible that Lamy himself generated the convergences based on his discussions with the G6. And even more, that these convergences only address what he and the G6 consider "core modalities" while ignoring other crucial issues, such as special products (SP) and special safeguard measures (SSM) in agriculture, flexibilities in NAMA and how to deal with the erosion of preferences. Many developing countries also fear that the urgency of the timetable for reaching an agreement quickly will pressure developing countries to accept an agreement that they have not fully understood technically (due to the short time frame) or with which they do not substantially agree. .
2. During the G6 meeting before the mini-Ministerial meeting on June 29, Lamy spoke of the "landing zone of 20" as a possible negotiating position or goal. Lamy's "landing zone" is where he is likely to take the so-called "convergence" of negotiating positions. This means: the US adopts a US $ 20 billion ceiling for agricultural subsidies, developing countries reduce their industrial tariffs to a cap of 20%, and WTO members adopt the G20 suggestion on agricultural tariffs. . The first two elements of this position do not represent any benefit at all for developing countries. The second element asks developing countries to lower industrial tariffs much more than they currently propose.
With regard to caps on domestic support and subsidies to agriculture in the United States, it is necessary first to examine the proposal presented by that country. The October 2005 offer of the United States to reduce its domestic support did not touch the aid that that country actually provides today. The proposed cuts allowed it to continue offering $ 23 billion in domestic aid, a figure higher than it currently provides. But more importantly, the proposed reductions do not include the US $ 51 billion distributed through the Green Box, which is not touched even in the current negotiations. Lamy's suggestion that the United States reduce its subsidies to $ 20 billion is insignificant since 70% of that country's subsidies are concentrated in the green box. It would be very easy for the United States to resort to some creative accounting maneuver that would allow it to shift about a billion dollars in subsidies from the blue box to the green one, and thus totally neutralize any real reduction in the general levels of domestic aid and subsidies.
In this scenario, developing countries could only confront the United States by appealing to the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (MSD or DSM for its acronym in English). But despite winning cases, such as cotton, developing countries, including Brazil, have failed to ensure that the United States effectively abides by the decisions of the MSD. Equally worrying is that the United States is now calling for the "peace clause" in the Agreement on Agriculture (AA) to be reinstated. The "peace clause" is a provision agreed in the Uruguay Round that establishes a 9-year grace period during which domestic support policies and export subsidy measures were exempted from any type of claim before the MSD. This clause expired on December 31, 2003, and since then the United States has been affected by various disputes, including that of cotton. The Chairman of the Agriculture Commission Crawford Falconer did not include the "peace clause" in the text of the mini-Ministerial, on the grounds that it is not part of the Doha mandate. However, Lamy seems open to reintroducing it as "a detail towards the end of the round, such as in the case of the Uruguay Round."
If Lamy's proposals are accepted, the dumping of agricultural products from the United States and the European Union will continue. And if the "peace clause" is reintroduced, it will not even be possible to challenge the green box through the MSD. The round will then have served only to open the markets of developing countries, both for agricultural and industrial products.
3. Until now, the United States shows no willingness to reduce domestic support to its agriculture, nor its demands for access to agricultural and industrial markets (NAMA) of developing countries. US law, in a way, has created special pressure to set the deadline for negotiations. Currently, the US Trade Representative still has a mandate to negotiate "fast track" deals (the so-called 'fast track' from the 2002 US Trade Promotion Act), but this expires in mid-2007. The authority The "fast track" means that the US Congress can only accept or reject the settlement that emerges from the negotiations, but cannot modify it. Without the authority of "fast track", the Trade Representative's office negotiates without any certainty, since Congress has the power to amend the agreement even after it is accepted by the WTO, and in this way the negotiations are become a waste of time. To accommodate the term of the US Trade Representative's "fast track" authority, the negotiations currently underway must conclude by the end of 2006 at the latest, to give the Representative time after that date. of Commerce to prepare the legal text that must be presented to Congress, etc.
Although the Office of the Trade Representative currently has a mandate to negotiate on the fast track, Congress has already indicated to this office what it will and will not accept under a trade agreement. Congress, besieged by lobbyists from agribusiness and other business interests, is very likely to reject any deal that does not mean major improvements in market access for US agricultural exports. The G33 proposal on Special Products (SP) and Special Safeguard Measures (SSM) calls for the most complete flexibility in the use of SPs and SSMs to protect food security, farmers' livelihoods and rural development. But the US agricultural proposal imposes limits on the number of products to be designated as "sensitive" or "special" and also on the extent to which developing countries can make use of MSEs. Regarding access to the services market under Mode 4 in the GATS negotiations, the United States Congress has made it clear that it will not accept an agreement that modifies the country's immigration policy, thus nullifying any possibility of new visas for countries in development under Mode 4.
The intransigence that characterizes the United States today is tactically useful to the cause of dealing a serious blow to the Doha Round. However, regardless of the commitments that the United States or any other developed country may make, there is nothing in the Doha Round negotiations that offers hope for development or for the transformation of the WTO into a fair multilateral trading system. rules-based world.
4. Developing countries held a unified position against developed countries before and during the last mini-Ministerial. They have become more prominent in their criticism of the Doha Round for not being a "development round" as promised, but rather a "market access round". This is important. Although the LDCs, the African countries, the G33 and the G90 had already raised this point of view before and during the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference, the other G20 countries were more or less silent about it. Now even India, Brazil and South Africa point to the importance of "development" in their press statements.
On July 1, all groupings of developing countries the [G20, G33, Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group, Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Africa Group , Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVE for its acronym in English), NAMA 11, Cotton 4 and CARICOM] held a joint press conference in which they emphasized that the lack of progress in the talks is due to the fact that some developed countries They do not want to give up any more on their commitments and ask developing countries to lower their tariffs further in NAMA, while developed countries are unwilling to make similar commitments in NAMA or agriculture.
The governments of these countries have so far stood firm on the following issues:
- Developing countries are united that the Doha round of negotiations must be a development round; the development dimension is not open to renegotiation, and developing countries will "regain" the essence of the development round.
- Governments declare that the flexibilities required by the G33 proposal regarding Special Products (SP) and Special Safeguard Measures (SSM) are intended to protect specific sectors that are vulnerable, and are not intended to erode market access as developed countries argue.
- Developing countries have different vulnerabilities and the benefits of market access also differ between different groups of developing countries, therefore the flexibilities to protect specific vulnerable sectors and target groups are very important to be able to defend development.
- It is necessary that the access of developing countries to the markets of developed countries be facilitated and not vice versa. Developed countries want market access in NAMA, agriculture and services and also want to retain levels of domestic support and subsidies in agriculture; this is not acceptable for developing countries.
- The livelihoods and livelihoods of peasants and farmers in developing countries are not negotiable.
- No trade package should put small and vulnerable economies at a disadvantage, given their vulnerability and their already extreme degree of openness to trade and investment.
- In the NAMA negotiations, developed countries have presented demands to developing countries that are not realistic, and that have been motivated by specific interest groups of a commercial nature in developed countries.
- The level of tariff reductions in NAMA that is being demanded of developing countries will determine a social distortion and a major social adjustment, without any compensatory measure being discussed.
- The concerns of LDCs and SVEs are being marginalized by the demands of developed countries in the NAMA negotiations.
- The WTO trade rules are inequitable as domestic support and export subsidies are legal for agriculture but illegal for industrial products.
- The proposal of the group known as Cotton 4 (Cotton 4) must be included in any new agreement.
- In the NAMA negotiations, the Hong Kong Declaration stipulates less than full reciprocity for developing countries, and it should be applied in the discussion of tariff reductions.
- Developing countries put more at stake than developed countries in the multilateral trading system; they are committed to completing the round but developed countries must demonstrate their own commitments first.
- While there need to be better trade-offs around domestic support in agriculture, access to agricultural markets and NAMA, the three elements are not the same; The most important results must be achieved in the areas where the distortions lie the greatest, namely agriculture, which displaces the products of developing countries and threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of poor farmers.
- Market access will be an important component of a successful Round, but market opening in developing countries must take into account their social and economic realities.
- A Development Round must not lead to the deindustrialization of the developing world.
- Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) must be integrated into all areas of the negotiations; particularly important are flexibilities in NAMA for industrial development in developing countries, and SPs and MSEs to address food security, rural development and livelihood concerns of developing countries.
- It is necessary to meet the expectations of LDCs regarding the implementation of the Hong Kong Ministerial Summit Decision on market access without tariffs and quotas, and the simplification of rules of origin.
- Issues related to preference erosion must be addressed.
- The negotiation process must be bottom-up, inclusive and transparent.
At the same time, however, most developing countries reaffirmed their commitment to the successful completion of the Doha Round by the end of 2006.
The LDC, EVS and ACP groups consider a bilateral trading system to be more hostile than a multilateral system, and appear committed to making the WTO "work" for them. It is quite possible that they will be pushed to accept a trade agreement antagonistic to their interests under pressure to "save the round."
The full article in English is availablehttp://www.focusweb.org/content/view/994/36/
July Focus on Trade, edited by Nicola Bullard of Focus on the Global South (FOCUS) - c / o CUSRI, Chulalongkorn University Bangkok 10330 THAILAND - Tel: 662 218 7363/7364/7365 Fax: 662 255 9976 -http://www.focusweb.org -
Translation: Alicia Porrini and Alberto Villarreal for REDES-Friends of the Earth Uruguay (www.redes.org.uy)
Posted in Censat - Agua Viva - http://www.censat.org