Only Slight Progress This Week in Geneva

Original Publication Date: 
22 November, 2005

Geneva Trade ministers of the "quad" nations the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India, along with Japan yesterday made some progress in bridging the gulfs in all packages of the Doha Development Agenda, agreeing to meet once again December 2 and 3 to finalize a ministerial declaration for the December 13 Hong Kong ministerial, WTD has learned (WTD, 11/22/05).

US Trade Representative Rob Portman said the five ministers discussed the "building blocks" that must be agreed at Hong Kong as well as a roadmap for post-Hong Kong meetings. World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy, who participated in the meeting, is understood to have said that the Hong Kong ministerial meeting should be a "launching pad" for concluding full negotiating modalities. The USTR described to the press that the "quad" meeting was a "good" effort at putting "meat on the bone" for the Hong Kong ministerial meeting. Japanese Agriculture Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said no new issues were discussed.

Indian trade minister Kamal Nath said there was progress in the talks among the five, but differences remain in the nonagricultural market access negotiations and on developmental issues.

Mr. Mandelson's Anger Over APEC Statement

European Union trade commissioner Peter Mandelson expressed anger over an Asia-Pacific Economic forum statement on the DDA aimed at pressuring Brussels to come up with a new offer on agriculture. He said Brussels will not table a new offer either at Hong Kong or afterwards.

The marathon meeting which began at 9:30 am in the US mission saw some sharp exchanges between Messrs. Mandelson and Portman on linking an end-date for the elimination of export subsidies and resolution of the "food aid" proposal in the export competition pillar of the agriculture negotiations.

Both the United States and Brazil are keen to get included in the Hong Kong text some figures, including the end-date for the elimination of export subsidies. But the EU trade commissioner insisted on full parallelism in all areas of export competition, sources said.

Ambassador Portman said the United States will not agree with the argument that food aid needs to be eliminated. It is being used for humanitarian purposes and to address specific food emergencies in poor countries where cash cannot be funneled through the right agencies. He also said the US Congress was very "supportive" of US food aid programs, but he added the United States is willing to look into situations where aid leads to commercial displacement.

The gulf between the United States and the EU on one side and India and Brazil on the other continues. WTO Director General Lamy asked India and Brazil why they cannot accept reductions in tariffs to their applied levels rather than bound rates. Even though bound tariffs were mentioned in the framework agreement, India and Brazil can still consider applied tariffs, the WTO chief said. India insisted that members are bound by the 2004 framework agreement.

India and Brazil also insisted on flexibilities in the NAMA negotiations for developing countries in contradiction to what the United States and the EU want.

The five "quad" participants could not agree on development issues for Hong Kong including a package outlined earlier in the week by the EU.