Tough Decisions in London Expected

Original Publication Date: 
9 March, 2006
Geneva - Trade chiefs of the United States, the European Union, Brazil, India, Australia and Japan are planning a busy two days today and Saturday in an effort to reach some accommodations on the most difficult issues in three central areas of the Doha Development Agenda whose outcome could indicate whether full modalities in the agriculture and industrials negotiations can be wrapped up by the end of next month, WTD was told (WTD, 3/9/06).

Ahead of today's meeting, World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy told senior trade officials of the six countries that the London meeting should focus on "numbers" in the trade-distorting domestic support pillar, market access for farm products and industrials. He also suggested that ministers spend some time on the Doha rules and services negotiations.

At a dinner Wednesday for the six senior officials hosted by Japan, it was agreed that ministers in London should sort out broad thresholds along with possible figures for tariff cuts in the four tariff bands together with how to treat sensitive products in the farm market access negotiations.

The ministers are expected to negotiate final figures for the "amber box" of trade-distorting farm programs as well as numbers and disciplines for a new "blue box". They also are expected in five scheduled working sessions to hammer out coefficients for developed and developing countries in the tariff-cutting formulas and to better define the relationship between the coefficients and "flexibilities" for developing countries, WTD was told.

Ministers also will meet bilaterally during the two days of meetings. Informal sessions start this morning with a meeting of ministers from the EU, Japan and India largely to discuss their specific problems in agriculture. Brazil and Australia are expected to meet with the United States later in the day to determine their level of ambition in the Doha farm market access talks. Subsequently, the trade chiefs of the United States, the EU, Brazil and India will hold a separate session to discuss linking agriculture and nonagricultural market access issues, sources said.

Four Working Sessions and Bilaterals

There will be four working sessions on Saturday at the residence of the British foreign minister which is used for high-profile meetings, WTD was told.

As he did in the December Hong Kong ministerial meeting, WTO Director General Lamy will likely play the role of an honest broker in the sessions. He is expected to raise some pertinent questions based on the simulations in agriculture and NAMA