Envoys Seeking Solution to DDA Stall

Original Publication Date: 
15 October, 2006

Geneva - Trade envoys from a score of countries are making intense efforts to find the "right spark" to reignite the suspended Doha Development Agenda trade negotiations soon, WTD was told (WTD, 10/9/06).

"We are now engaged in an intense effort among some two dozen trade envoys informally to find the right spark to resume the suspended Doha talks," Chilean trade envoy to the World Trade Organization Ambassador Mario Matus told WTD on Thursday.

Although negotiations remain suspended, envoys here are holding confabulations at various levels outside the DDA structure to explore whether they can come up with solutions to difficult issues like "special products" and the "special safeguard mechanism" for developing countries along with "sensitive products" for industrialized countries in the agriculture market access negotiations. They also are looking into ways to make progress on trade-distorting domestic support, WTD was told.

Involved are envoys come from all the key DDA players.

Aside from the regular informal sessions that took place over the last ten days, there also are simultaneous efforts by Cairns Group farm exporting members and the group-of-20 developing countries. Both are focusing on "special products" and the "special safeguard mechanism."

Cairns

Cairns Group envoys said they are encouraged by the recent statement made by the Group-of-33 "defensive" agriculture coalition at last week's WTO General Council meeting, where it indicated that its proposal on "special products" entails tariff reductions on 90 percent of the agricultural tariff lines - with lower liberalization on some of them than would otherwise be the case. It also would allow developing countries to provide exemption from tariff cuts on 10 percent of agricultural tariff lines. The group described the "special safeguard mechanism" as simply a remedy against surges and price decreases."

This is a welcome development, said Cairns envoys last week. They see the G-33 as "ready to engage in a dialogue which is constructive in its process and substance without being selective," one envoy commented to WTD.

But it is wrong to expect the developing-country coalition to make all the advances while the United States takes a backseat on what has to be done in the domestic support pillar, one G-20 envoy said. The G-20 has begun technical consultations on "special products" and the "special safeguard mechanism" among its own members.