General Council sets informals on Seattle proposals

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 8 July -- The General Council of the World Trade Organization has set a schedule of informal meetings till July end, with each meeting having focused discussions on the various proposals before the Council for its Seattle preparatory work.

Over 70 proposals have so far been tabled, and statements here and in some key capitals suggest more may be on the way, in relation to the Seattle meeting and any new round of negotiations that may ensue.

According to programme agreed earlier, the Council is to receive proposals till end July, before the traditional summer recess in August and early September, when normal meetings are not held.

The idea is that in September when negotiators get back, they would come with capitals having a clear view of these, and an informal negotiating exercise to make recommendations to the Seattle Ministerial meeting is to be undertaken.

In terms of the Geneva Ministerial Declaration (GMD) and the preparatory work mandated under it, the Council will now discuss informally on 16 July (and possibly 19 and 20 July) proposals on the implementation of various provisions in two clusters of issues:

One relate to the proposals relating to anti-dumping, subsidies, TRIMs, TRIPS, Customs Valuation, Dispute Settlement Understanding, GATT 1994 (BOP provisions, the Enabling Clause) and State Trading enterprises.

The second cluster relates to agriculture, services, the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement and the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), provisions for Special and Differential (S&D) treatment for developing countries, regional trade agreements, the WTO agreement, and notification obligations and procedures. These two clusters are in terms of the implementation issues mandated in para 9.a.i of the GMD.

In terms of the 'mandated negotiations' under the Marrakesh Agreement set in para 9.a.ii. of the GMD, informal discussions will focus at a meeting on 21 July, on proposals concerning agriculture and services.

Also to be addressed at that meeting, in terms of future work already mandated under existing agreements and decisions (GMD 9.a.iii) -- agriculture, services and some review exercises; the proposals concerning the DSU; the Singapore work programme (about trade and investment, trade and competition policy, government procurement and trade facilitation); and proposals for duty free market access for Least Developed Countries are to be discussed.

Meeting on 22 July will address evaluation of implementation of individual agreements, and under it proposals concerning the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing.

Other matters (9.d of the GMD) to be discussed on 23 July relate to the proposals regarding trade and environment, TRIPS and fisheries; proposals concerning market access for non- agricultural products, forestry and fisheries products, accessions; proposals regarding possible decisions at Seattle;

Organization and management of the WTO programme under para 10 of the GMD (preparing recommendations for the Seattle meeting) and future work in the preparatory process.

Under the process envisaged in para 10, there have been questions about time-frame for concluding the negotiations to be launched at Seattle, the single-undertaking concept (of everyone having to accept every part of the various negotiations) and other related issues. Most developing countries have said they can't address this issue until they know the subjects or items to be negotiated and how. (SUNS4474)

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

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