No Breakthrough in Geneva

Original Publication Date: 
19 October, 2005

Geneva - Chief trade ministers of the "Five Interested Parties" the United States, the European Union, Australia, Brazil and India yesterday failed to "break the ice" in the difficult market access area of the ongoing Doha Development Agenda agricultural trade negotiations after sharp divisions arose over the level of tariff cuts for industrialized and developing countries, the treatment of "sensitive" products for industrial nations and the "special products" and special safeguard mechanism for developing countries (WTD, 10/19/05).

The marathon meeting late yesterday afternoon at the US mission also saw some heated discussion on the Group of 20 developing country proposal for market access and treatment of sensitive products. World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy and Doha agriculture trade negotiations chairman Crawford Falconer attended the meeting.

Commenting to reporters in Washington, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns placed responsibility for a possible failure of the talks squarely on the EU. Brussels has brought nothing to the negotiating table that remotely resembles the "ambition" needed to make the current round a success and it appears that nothing new will be forthcoming, he stated. Mr. Johanns suggested the "success or failure of the Doha round is in the hands of the EU."

Before entering yesterday's meeting, Brazilian trade minister Celso Amorim repeated that the EU will have to do "more" in market access. He said Brussels has shown little flexibility in agreeing to a palatable proposal.

G20 'Far Too Ambitious'

The European Union made it known that the G-20 proposal for market access for industrialized countries was far too ambitious. EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson did not present any new proposals during the session.

US Trade Representative Rob Portman charged that the G-20 plan treats emerging developing countries with "kid gloves" while asking the industrialized countries to agree to ambitious moves in all three pillars including domestic supports and export competition. The USTR, however, did not dismiss the G 20 plan. Rather, he suggested there needs to be parity in treatment between industrialized countries and the more advanced developing countries.

Brazil's Amorim responded that the United States cannot "hide" behind the "developing country" argument. Industrialized countries particularly the United States and the EU are required to deliver in all three pillars of the Doha farm talks and not make those offers contingent on concessions by developing countries.

Brussels said it could not accept the one percent cap on the number of sensitive product lines protected from steep tariffs cuts which is also a component of the US agriculture proposal.

On trade-distorting domestic supports, the G-20 asked the United States to agree to product-specific caps in both the aggregate measurement of support and the "blue box." There was no immediate response, WTD was told.

Brussels demanded "parallelism" in export competition saying it cannot propose more until export credits, food aid and state trading enterprises issues are addressed.