TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (August ¾)

12 August 2003

Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues


On Monday 11 August, the WTO resumed business after a two week break.  The main activity was a morning session of the informal Heads of Delegations (HOD) meeting.  The topic was agriculture.

The US and EC were expected to produce a joint paper on modalities, but were not able to do so.

In the afternoon, consultations on issues took place in small groups. There was a consultation on non-agriculture market access (NAMA). On Tuesday there wil be a HOD meeting on NAMA, on Wednesday on S and D and on Thursday the Singapore Issues.


Below is a report of the 11 August HOD meeting on agriculture.

with best wishes

Martin Khor



US, EC fail to produce agriculture paper as WTO resumes work

TWN Report by Martin Khor, Geneva 11 August 2003

After a two-week break, the WTO resumed activities this morning with an informal meeting on agriculture at which the US and EC announced they would present a joint document on modalities of negotiations in the near future, but without giving a date. 

Another meeting on agriculture is scheduled for Wednesday evening to give an opportunity for any new positions to be aired.  But the US-EU joint document is not expected to be ready by then.

Today’s agriculture meeting was the first of a series of morning informal “heads of delegations” (HOD) meetings, chaired by General Council chairman, Ambassador Carlos Perez del Castillo, to be held after the break and before the Cancun Ministerial. 

Perez del Castillo announced that the HOD meeting on Tuesday morning will discuss non-agriculture market access, and on Wednesday and Thursday the topics will be Special and Differential Treatment and the Singapore Issues.

At Monday’s meeting, there was expectation that the US and EC would present a joint position on agriculture modalities, in line with reports from the “Mini-Ministerial” in Montreal at the end of July that they would put forward a joint document at the WTO after the break.

However, they announced instead that they were still working on it and would present a document in the near future, without specifying a date. 

Several delegates said that without receiving the joint US-EC paper, it was not possible to move the agriculture discussion any further. 

A senior developing country diplomat commented after the meeting that the morning’s session had been a “futile exercise” as the expected joint US-EC paper had not materialized.  “It’s all in the air and we are forced to second guess.  Only when they put it on the table can we see if our concerns have been taken on board and then we can respond,” said the diplomat.

According to trade officials, the US said it was talking to the EC to see if they could come to a common position on the modalities.  Neither the Uruguay Round nor the Swiss formula approaches to tariff reduction have been acceptable on their own, and the US and EC were trying to work on a “blend” of the two.

The US said it was seriously discussing with the EC, and both were trying to clarify the direction the negotiations will take.  Among the issues were market access, tariff quotas and S and D treatment.

The EC also said it was working with the US on a blend of the Uruguay Round and the Swiss formulas on market access and it was committed to finding a common approach with the US that is an acceptable formula for all.

Japan welcomed the US-EU leadership on agriculture, said there should be a balance in the three pillars, that addressing tariff peaks was not part of the mandate on agriculture, and the Uruguay Round formula should be used.

Several countries, including those in the Cairns group that favour rapid liberalization by all, and the developing countries which stress the need for special and differential treatment, emphasised the need for a solution that fulfilled the Doha mandate on agriculture.

Amb. Perez del Castillo stressed the need to maintain the level of ambition in the Doha text and that there should not be an attempt to reinterpret Doha.

Brazil expressed the view of many, that until the US-EC paper is produced, there could not no forward movement on agriculture. 

India stressed that food security is the paramount concern for its delegation, and reiterated its support for the Uruguay Round market access approach, and it would not accept proposals to expand tariff rate quotas or open new ones.

Several developing countries highlighted the need to have adequate S and D provisions that should be operationalised through appropriate modalities, including the use of the “special products” category and the extension of a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries which they could use with flexibility.