Separate track for implementation doesn’t mean side-track

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 3 May 2001 - - The implementation issues may be on a ‘separate track’ at the World Trade Organization, but it cannot be ‘side-tracked’ in relation to the 4th Ministerial Conference, and any lack of progress at the WTO on implementation will affect the rest of the work.

This warning came at the informal General Council meeting of the World Trade Organization Thursday as it began work on the preparations for the Doha meeting, on the basis of a checklist of possible issues for discussion that had been sent out by the chair of the GC, Mr. Stuart Harbinson of Hong Kong China.

The strong views of the developing world came as Japan and South Korea kicked off the discussions in the morning with the view that the first item relating to current issues and state of the world economy should be taken up nearer to the Doha meeting, that the implementation and on-going negotiations and reviews (on agriculture, services and reviews) were being dealt with in other bodies or special mechanisms, and hence the preparatory process should straight plunge into other elements of the work programme - ‘Singapore subjects’ and other possible subjects.

While this is the first effort at preparations for Doha, in the kind of culture and style characteristic of the ‘rules- based’ WTO, some of the key delegations (including Hong Kong, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia , New Zealand, the EC and a few others), proponents of new round with new issues, have been meeting separately outside the WTO (often with the cooperation or participation of WTO secretariat and its officials) to promote these new issues and new possible subjects, and mapping out their tactics in these matters, and springing them at the General Council.

Parallel to these, the WTO Director-General has bee working overtime, travelling around the world to promote the agenda of a few for new round of negotiations with new issues, and has also been sending for and meeting individual country delegations here to find out what is termed ‘the flexibility’ they have in agreeing to a new round and the Doha ministerial.

The checklist sent out by Mr.Harbinson on 20 April, had six bullets, with some sub-indents on some of them:

·        Ministers’ views/statements on current issues, for example:

·        state of the world economy and role of the WTO - need to combat protectionism

·        development dimensions of WTO work - global economic coherence - relationship between regionalism and multilateralism - accessions - sustainable development - other possible issues

·        Implementation

·        Ongoing Negotiations/Reviews

·        agriculture - services - reviews

·        Other elements of the Work Programme - ‘Singapore subjects’

·        other possible subjects

·        Organization and Management of the Work Programme

·        Technical cooperation and Capacity Building

India, Pakistan, Dominican Republic, Egypt and several others in their interventions made clear the importance of resolving the implementation issues, and that the outcome at Doha would depend on this.

India also said that the Doha meeting should address the TRIPs and the health issue, that have now come up prominently and being discussed everywhere, as also the protection for geographical indications of origin.

Tanzania complained that the Doha check list did not even have any mention of the LDCs.

Pakistan repeated a view that emerged in the run-up to Singapore namely that for any item to be put on the agenda it should be ‘Trade-related’, should result in benefits for all members, should be susceptible to negotiations and should be formally proposed (and accepted by consensus).

The Doha agenda and subjects for inclusion in any outcome have to be tested on this basis.

The informal meeting is continuing in the afternoon. - SUNS 4888

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