Conference adopts Declarations and Decision on Implementation

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Doha, 14 Nov 2001 - The 4th Ministerial Conference adopted late Wednesday the Decision on Implementation and the two draft Declarations on the basis of “an understanding” from the Conference Chair that would enable each member on the Singapore issues to use the negotiations on modalities to prevent any negotiations until the member is prepared to join a consensus for negotiations on all the four Singapore issues.

The Doha Ministerial Conference was extended into Wednesday, as a group of about 20 ministers worked during the night in the return of the ‘green room’ process to produce a text that seemed in effect to incorporate every demand of the European Union on all the Singapore issues and on environment.

In the ‘green room’ itself, the US and EU joined hands to threaten and browbeat India, with every opposition by India to a formulation on the Singapore issues, being countered by a worse text on investment, competition, government procurement and trade facilitation, as well as on environment.

Earlier, the Indian Commerce Minister, Mr. Murasoli Maran told the HOD meeting today that unless India’s concerns on the four Singapore issues and the paragraphs on environment are taken into account, India cannot join the consensus.

India was supported by Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Barbados, also speaking for Guyana, Cuba, Zambia, Dominican Republic, Belize, Uganda, Kenya and Granada. If no solution is found, they said that they would not join the consensus.

The Chair of the Conference, the WTO DG Mike Moore, the EC’s Pascal Lamy and Mr. Maran were consulting with each other.

Mr. Maran suggested what was described by another delegation as “minor point that would ensure that the 5th Ministerial Conference will decide by consensus whether to start negotiations.”

The existing draft only provides for modalities of such negotiations to be agreed upon. The Declaration in effect provides for commencement of negotiations on all four issues here and now at Doha.

Even the very small ‘gain’ for India on the textiles front (in the earlier formulations) was taken away, with the issue being referred to the Committee on Trade in Goods and the General Council.

As of Wednesday morning, Mr. Maran was reported to be in touch with New Delhi and conferring on what India should do over a package that was a political dynamite for the government.

The EU and its Council of Ministers, delegations said, sought a recess to hold consultations with India, and the Qatari Chairman and WTO DG also had a separate meeting. Mr. Maran came out of these meetings grim-faced, but seemingly determined on his course.

The EU appears to have won all its points, so much so that the EC spokesman, Anthony Gooch showed more than his usual arrogance. Maran reportedly had earlier responded when talking to a journalist, who asked him a question, that there was no text or words to that effect.

When the journalist told Gooch that Maran says he had not seen a text, and an Indian journalist, Ram Manohar Reddy of the Hindu, asked Gooch’s comments on the new text, Gooch told the journalist, “why don’t you give your minister a copy of the text.”

After receiving the text, the HOD meeting was recessed to meet again at noon, to enable delegations to study the text and react.

The conference was getting repeatedly rescheduled, with the HOD meeting scheduled and rescheduled, in what was seen by many delegations, to wear down delegations holding out.

The conference, which went into the ‘green room’ mode about 1800 Tuesday and went on till 0300 (all local time) of Wednesday, with the US and EC ministers trying to apply maximum pressure on India. One or two countries from Africa whose ministers were called in were not allowed to bring in any advisors, and a few, where ministers had left and was sought to be represented by ambassadors, were told they could only observe and not speak!

The conference was held up while the waiver sought by the EC and the ACP countries for the Cotonou agreement was being worked out, with hold outs being pressured or bought over by some trade concessions, while the main business of the conference was being held up.

There were some indications that the WTO secretariat and the US and EU, were hoping to get the declarations carried by acclamation, and try to drown out the few who might oppose.

A full analysis of the outcome of the 4th Ministerial Conference will be featured in upcoming issues of SUNS. – SUNS5010

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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