by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 20 Oct 99 -- The Chairman of the General Council (GC) of the World Trade Organization has now put forward a new revised draft text for a Ministerial Declaration at Seattle, aiming to identify "the main tendencies and divergences which have emerged in the work so far in a balanced way".

The new text reached delegations Wednesday.

Except for the title and headings, most of the text is studded with square brackets, and brackets within brackets - indicating wider areas of differences that need to be resolved.

The new 31-page revised text, at first glance, appears to take on board, either as proposed amendments to the 7 October draft or, where distinct alternatives have been presented, as separate options, the formulations of developing countries on implementation issues - both those to be addressed and resolved at Seattle and others in the first year of negotiations.

And some of these have been more clearly presented, rather than as square bracketed texts inside a formulation.

As customary in such documents, the authorship of the tendencies is not mentioned.

Most, if not all, of the alternatives and formulations put forward by developing countries, including those by the like-minded group (LMG) of developing countries, and other formulations and alternatives from the US, EU, Japan, the Cairns Group etc all appear to figure in the new revised text.

But in sticking to the original structure of presentation (with cross-references), rather than the structure of para nine and its various indents, of the Geneva Ministerial Declaration giving a mandate to the General Council for a preparatory process for Seattle, and putting in one place items, the revised text could prove confusing to the unwary other than trade diplomats, and even to many of them.

A meeting of the General Council informal heads of delegation (HOD) is expected to be held perhaps Thursday afternoon, which could kick off a process of negotiations to present a more manageable text to capitals.

The original schedule for this, set by GC Chair, Amb. Ali Mchumo of Tanzania, was 5 November, just 15 calendar days away.

And the Swiss-convened and hosted meeting in Lausanne of Ministers of key countries, the 'Friends of the Round,' (beginning with a 24 October evening dinner) and on 25-26 October, may or may not promote consensus, but will cut at least two working days of the GC process.

Subjects for negotiations, are now presented under separate headings (A, B, C etc).

Under A, 'Negotiations mandated at Marrakech' are mentioned separately, Agriculture, Services, and the TRIPS (for a multilateral system of notifications and registration of geographical indications for wines).

Under Agriculture and Services, the different formulations and texts that were presented in the HOD process on 12-15 October have been set out as alternatives.

Under Agriculture are presented in separate formulations and alternatives, those of the US, the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters, the EU-Japan-South Korea views about 'multi- functionality' of agriculture, and the views of some other developing countries like the LMG, about the special and differential (S&D) treatment for developing countries, LDCs and net food-importing developing countries, for an S&D treatment of a 'development box' to ensure achieving objectives of food security, rural development and poverty alleviation.

As insisted upon by several Cairns group members, the bringing in of the 'multifunctional' character of agriculture, has been balanced by them in other formulations under other subjects the 'multifunctional' character of trade in services, in intellectual property, and trade in non-agricultural products.

Under Services too are listed the varying formulations about the negotiations, both the objectives, setting guidelines as required by GATS before each round of services talks.

While the requirement for setting guidelines may cover the problem, the issue that was ducked in the entire Uruguay Round negotiations on Services is still being ducked. The only data on trade in services are still gathered from the IMF's Balance-of- Payments data as a residual, but based on IMF criteria for 'transactions' across the borders, and not that of the GATS.

This issue about clear data on trade in services and directions of trade in services (to match the directions of trade in goods data now available) to help negotiators and countries weigh the costs and benefits, and one that was supposed to have been tackled and resolved by now, finds no mention still.

This issue had been raised or flagged by some negotiations during the early stages of the Uruguay Round talks on services. It was followed up by UNCTAD (in its technical support to developing countries to negotiate) and then by its chief of statistics, Mr. Taj, who followed it up in the inter-agency committee of UN system statisticians.

At least in the reports of two of these meetings of UN system statisticians, the question figured, with the statisticians raising the point that addressing the statistical problems needs an agreed definition of 'trade in services'. But the EC and OECD and others staved off further work, on the argument of their own work.

But in the wake of the restructuring of the UN and UNCTAD secretariat (before Midrand), the statistical issue appears to have disappeared, from UNCTAD's own agenda. Even UNCTAD's positive agenda for developing countries does not seem to provide enough answers or raise enough questions on this.

In the GATS negotiations (before its conclusion), it was more or less agreed, though it is not certain that this found its way into the secretariat's internal negotiating history files, that before the next round mandated in 2000, the statistical gaps and methodologies would be addressed and settled.

And developing countries liberalised their services sectors, albeit at their own pace and in terms of 'positive listing' under various modes of supply (including investment mode that is sought by the developed countries and their services industries), and more so in financial services and other sectors -- without any clear cost-benefit analysis.

There have been no clear answers on what has been achieved in the area of an adequate methodology of collection and classification of trade in services data and directions of trade.

As formulated now, developing countries may be taking another 'leap in the dark' in further liberalising services in any new mandated negotiations.

Under the mandated negotiations in TRIPS is one for completing negotiations on the establishment of a multilateral system of notifications and registration of geographical indications for wines, and within square brackets 'and spirits', eligible for protection in those Members participating in the system.

Also as a part of this, in square bracket text, is the formulation that the negotiations and results shall fully take into account the multifunctional character of intellectual property.

'B. Other Subjects proposed for Negotiations' now lists:

* some of the TRIPS issues;

* the 'market access' negotiations on non-agricultural products;

* WTO rules -- anti-dumping, subsidies and countervailing measures, fisheries subsidiaries, technical barriers to trade, state trading, regional trade agreements, and TRIMs.

The issues of investment, competition policy, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation figure as subjects for negotiations, and separately elsewhere, as formulated by the LMG group, as subjects for continuation of the study programme.

Under other elements of a work programme are listed formulations on proposals including those on:

* the proposals on TRIPS -- for the TRIPS Council to take up and complete the negotiations mandated on geographical indications on wines and spirits, for expanding the product coverage, for review of Art 27.3 (b) including reconciling TRIPS and the Convention on Bio-diversity, for protection of IPRs of indigenous/traditional knowledge, expressions of folklore, and for review of implementation of TRIPS and examine ways of enhancing achieving objectives of Articles 7 and 8 of TRIPS on technology transfer and development;

* review of the TBT agreement;

* review of TRIMs for additional disciplines, to take into account the multi-functional character of investment;

* agreement on government procurement (a plurilateral accord);

* for continuing the study programmes of the Singapore issues of trade and investment, trade and competition policy, transparency in government procurement, and trade facilitation;

* Rules of origin and for completing work on harmonization of non-preferential rules of origin by November 1999;

* on Coherence, with the subject itself under square brackets, and a proposal for a working group to look into several issues including those of cooperation between WTO, and other international economic organizations, on the relationship between trade policies and good economic governance at national level, efficacy and synergies between multilateral surveillance processes of various international economic institutions, and the relationship between appropriate trade, developmental, social and environment policy choices;

* electronic commerce;

* DSU review;

* work programme on trade and finance;

* working group on transfer of technology;

* working group on trade and debt; and

* working party on biotechnology, with a fact-finding mandate to consider adequacy and effectiveness of existing rules as well as capacity of members to implement them.

Among subjects listed for immediate decisions at Seattle are: actions in favour of least developed countries (with some formulations and alternatives), the DSU review, adoption of an agreement on transparency in government procurement, WTO transparency through regular 'outreach' initiatives of symposia and workshops and wider availability of WTO documentation to the public.(SUNS4534)

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

[c] 1999, SUNS - All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or posted to any system or service without specific permission from SUNS. This limitation includes incorporation into a database, distribution via Usenet News, bulletin board systems, mailing lists, print media or broadcast. For information about reproduction or multi-user subscriptions please contact < >