India, Japan Press for 'Final Text'

Original Publication Date: 
29 January, 2006

Davos At a Group-of-Six informal meeting last Friday, India and Japan pressed World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy to prepare a "final text" in preparation for wrapping up the four-year-old Doha Development Agenda negotiations, WTD has learned (see related report this issue).

Also since the G-6 members of the United States, the European Union, Brazil, India, Australia and Japan did not delve into substantial issues here, they agreed to meet March 10 to review progress in the negotiations since last month's Hong Kong ministerial.

The unusual request by India and Japan is akin to what General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Director General Arthur Dunkel did in 1991 to bring the long-stalled Uruguay Round to an end. Indian trade minister Kamal Nath said the WTO chief must start putting up a text now.

Japanese agriculture minister Shoichi Nakagawa backed the Indian request by saying the time has come for preparation of a final text in order to move the negotiations to a conclusion in a balanced way, WTD was told.

But Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim shot down the idea in the G-6 discussion by insisting that a final text must emerge from negotiations not from above. He said it is too early to discuss a text.

New Zealand trade minister Phil Goff told WTD that the stage is set for negotiations based on the Hong Kong declaration in which members will aim for "ambitious results." Only if there is a deadlock, should the Director General consider drafting a text, he said.

Indonesian Minister of Industry and Trade Rini M.S. Soewandi suggested that the idea of preparing a draft text at this juncture should only be taken up after exhausting all other options.

G-7 Doha Session

Meanwhile, the trade chiefs of Japan and the European Union on Saturday poured cold water on a suggestion by Brazil that heads-of-state should convene a special meeting in late February or early March on the Doha negotiations to give them a much-needed political push and resolve some of the more highly contentious issues in agriculture.

Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim said he supports British chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown's call at the formal Davos World Economic Forum meeting for such a meeting with the key Doha players including Brazil, India, South Africa, Senegal and Benin with the Group-of-Seven industrial nations. Such a meeting contributed to bringing the Uruguay Round to a successful conclusion, he noted.

Minister Amorim told WTD that engagement at the highest level would have a positive impact on the negotiations enabling the WTO to reach full modalities by the end of April.

But Japanese agriculture minister Nakagawa suggested that the outstanding agriculture issues are too technical for leaders. Consequences of a failure at such a high level would be long-lasting, he told WTD.

While not solidly opposed to the idea, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson argued that the time has not come for such a meeting. He said "it has to be a one-shot affair" requiring careful planning and timely intervention.