GC chair to have further consultations on implementation

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 29 Nov 2000 -- The Chairman of the General Council, Amb. Kare Bryn of Norway is to hold further consultations on the implementation issues raised by developing countries on the views and concerns expressed by them over his proposed draft decision.

Bryn had circulated a proposed draft decision covering some of the points made by developing countries in terms of issues listed in para 21 of the Mchumo text.

According to Mr.Bryn’s note, these proposals representing the “best efforts” of Bryn and the WTO head are to be put before the General Council meeting as a Special Mechanism on 14-15 December for adoption.

At an informal meeting Wednesday, the developing countries expressed their concern that while a few points had been listed in the proposed decision circulated by Mr. Bryn, many others have been left out.

Pakistan said that Mr.Bryn should put these other issues into the text within square brackets.

A number of delegations pointed out that the draft decision now put forward seemed to represent no more than what the Chairman at the October meeting had set out as Chairman’s summing up (without committing anyone) and on which a number of developing countries had expressed their views.

Chairman Bryn said that while the draft decision included some of the points in para 21 of the Mchumo text, the others were still on the table. But it was not clear form his remarks how the ‘things still on the table’ would be dealt with.

Third World delegations said that clearly Mr.Bryn’s efforts have been stymied by the stand of the Quad countries who do not want to do anything on implementation, beyond some window-dressing and a few concessions that would help to divide the developing world.

The Quad view clearly is that if nothing happens on implementation issues on which developing countries want immediate action, they will be forced to agree to a new round with new issues (being pushed by the EC, Canada, Japan and the WTO head, and perhaps by the US too).

Symptomatic of the stance of ‘benign neglect’ to these concerns was the fact that the WTO had arranged no media briefings on the informal General Council consultations, on the view that there was no ‘media interest’, meaning western media interest. The western media also ignored the Special Session of the General Council last week over the decision of the Appellate Body in inviting NGO briefs, a session where everyone except the US spoke up in sharp criticism.

In effect, one year after the collapse of the Seattle meeting, and the year-long charade of ‘confidence-building’ measures, the WTO and its power-structure is back to square one—the situation that prevailed before Seattle when they hoped they could force their will down the throat of the developing world.

The informal consultations Wednesday were reportedly marked by some sharp comments and exchanges involving Pakistan, Canada and the chair.

While some delegations have been of the view that the proposals should be rejected, others have been suggesting that they should keep the pressure on the General Council chair and the WTO Director-General, and the Quad to come up with revised proposals to take account of their concerns.

It is not very clear what the outcome would be.

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

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