Change of style or engagement on implementation?
The industrialized countries presented an appearance of engagement in discussing implementation questions at an informal General Council session on 18 September, but gave little or no ground on changing their earlier stands.
by Chakravarthi Raghavan
Geneva, 19 Sep 2000 -- The industrialized countries presented an appearance of engagement in discussing implementation questions at an informal General Council session on 18 September, but gave little or no ground on changing their earlier stands.
The General Council, functioning in special sessions as the mechanism to deal with implementation issues, took up on 18 September individual agreements and issues listed by developing countries, and figuring under para 21 of the Mchumo text (the draft ministerial text put forward by the Chairman of the General Council, Amb. Ali Mchumo of Tanzania, listing the implementation issues raised by developing countries for immediate actions).
The two-day informal meeting appears to have discussed the procedures, suggested by chairman Kare Bryn of Norway to address these issues, and then took up subjects or proposals under each of the individual multilateral trade agreements of the WTO.
In the itemwise discussion, taken up for a first discussion were implementation issues for decisions before end-2000 put forward by developing countries: the balance-of-payments provisions of GATT 1994, agriculture, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, textiles and clothing, trade-related investment measures, and anti-dumping.
On none of the items discussed could there be said to have been found a consensus, and most involved either the industrialized nations insisting that there could be no change because it would involve altering the balance of rights and obligations (the US position, in general) or that no changes could be made without renegotiations and this could only be done in a new round (the position of the EU, Japan and Canada), and some nuances in between. Most, if not all, industrial countries also took the position on many issues that the problems related to adequate technical assistance to help developing countries implement, a stand rejected by developing countries.
As one Third World diplomat put it, to the extent that the major countries are now speaking and responding to the demands, suggests some engagement, but there has been no progress of substance. The industrialized nations are trying to appear to be willing to look at problems, but they seem to be attempting to ensure that nothing more than a procedural decision put forward as a compromise at Seattle, if not less, is accepted.
But this would not be enough for developing countries, who need to keep the pressure over a long time.
The informal meetings continue on 19 September, and a further series of meetings are expected to be held in October.-SUNS4743
The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.
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