Moore trying to build momentum for new round

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 15 Feb 2001 --   A process of preparations for the Doha 4th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization - including work on a draft ministerial declaration and/or launching a new round of trade negotiations being promoted and advocated by the WTO Director-General Mike Moore - is expected to start at the WTO in April, trade diplomats said Wednesday.

They gave this assessment after a ‘green room’ consultation convened by Moore, who is on his way to Washington for meetings with the new US Trade Representative and the administration to promote the idea of a new round (including new issues).

Though there is as yet no consensus among the WTO membership on a new round and its contents and priorities, Moore himself has been criss-crossing the world and speaking and giving interviews for the launch of a new round -  to the point where even governments seeking this are finding it an embarassment, if not counter- productive since it appears to be galvanising opposition among NGOs and domestic lobbies.

Now that the dates and venue of the next ministerial has been set, and the General Council has to decide on a preparatory process in the consultations convened by him, Moore appears to have sought the views of the trade ambassadors on the processes and on the views of their governments about a round and its agenda.

The consultations Wednesday, trade diplomats said, was on the process, and not specifically on whether or not a new round should be launched at Doha, but inevitably the process is getting mixed up with the substance and the outcome.

On the process itself, apart from the question of who should chair and lead the process for the drafting of the declaration (the General Council and its chair or the Director-General), the general view that came out was that consultations on the implementation issues should be held in March, and any process for the drafting of a declaration should begin in April.

It is clear that the new administration in Washington will take some more time to formulate its positions and the priorities it should set for the multilateral process at the WTO or the Free Trade Area for Americas, which was highlighted by George W. Bush in his election views, to the extent these at all came up.

After the consultations among some of the majors on the sidelines of the  World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr. Moore had told some of the news media present, that he would take in hand the process of drafting a ministerial declaration for launching a new round and that the process should be concluded by July.

The EU Commission, which is promoting a new round with new issues including investment and competition policy, has been disguising its ambitions in floating the idea that the new round with these subjects could be launched on the basis that the final outcome need not be subscribed to by all members, but could become a plurilateral agreement.

However, this is clearly an EC ‘trojan horse’ exercise to bring the subjects on the WTO negotiating agenda.

In its note to the 133 Committee (of EU representatives on trade) and meetings here with other countries, the EU Commission has also been saying that learning from the lessons of Seattle, the agenda for a new round should not attempt to reflect the final outcome, but rather the subjects.

At Wednesday’s meeting, no one appears to have opposed a new round of trade negotiations as such -  even those countries opposing a new round with new issues like investment etc find it tactically useful to say they want a new round of trade negotiations, while differing on the content of the agenda.

Some like India, Malaysia and Pakistan have said that only those issues should be included in an agenda on which there is consensus, and they do not favour things being left in the air, with possibility of their being made into a negotiating agenda at a later stage by subsequent ministerial meetings or otherwise.

At the consultations Wednesday, the EC again promoted the launch of a new round at Doha, including the issues of investment, competition policy, government procurement, trade facilitation etc.

Brazil, which has generally been supportive of the idea of a new round, is reported to have said Wednesday that while it could support a new round, there was a prior need to deal with the ‘development deficit’ shown by the workings of the WTO and its agreements -  a reference to the asymmetry in the provisions of the subsidies and other agreements, shown by the various trade disputes involving Brazil.-SUNS4837

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

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