‘Layers of Opaqueness’

Original Publication Date: 
5 March, 2007

Geneva - African trade envoys are extremely unhappy over what they call "layers of opaqueness" in the manner which the four key players in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations - the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India - are following, keeping others out of the process, WTD has learned (see related report this issue).

That sentiment was expressed to US Trade Representative Susan Schwab yesterday in a meeting with the African group. The envoys said they will not tolerate any attempt to "bulldoze" a G-4 agreement to the larger membership. It is important to strengthen the multilateral negotiating process, they said.

Ambassador Schwab attempted to allayed the fears by saying the G-4 agreement will not be "take-it-or-leave-it." Also, the four are not engaged in talking specific numbers at this juncture - but merely discussing concepts and principles which would be fed into the multilateral process later.

The USTR emphasized Washington's commitment to an ambitious outcome in the negotiations - especially in market access for agriculture, industrial and services. The United States is willing to further pare down its domestic farm subsidy spending - contingent on a satisfactory outcome in market access, she said.

The African countries said the "cotton" issue is central to their concerns, adding that the United States should have implemented the "cotton" accord reached in the 2005 Hong Kong ministerial meeting.

Cotton

According to sources, the USTR said Washington has provided a big developmental component for African cotton growers through Millennium Challenge Corporation grants. The United States is working now on trade-related aspects, but she offered no specifics.

The United States will attend the special meeting on "cotton" set for March 15 and 16.

Another African concern is preference erosions. Ambassador Schwab said the United States will be working with all members on the issue.

On the broader issues in nonagricultural market access, the USTR said the United States is working hard to get a balanced deal that would address the sensitivities of many members.

As for the Hong Kong initiative on duty-free/quota-free access for least developed countries, the USTR said her office is in the process now of public outreach to implement the commitments.