WTO members wait for action to shift from London to Geneva

Original Publication Date: 
8 November, 2005

Negotiations seemed to have been put "on hold" at the World Trade Organisation as delegates in Geneva awaited the outcome of a Ministerial meeting in London Monday involving the US, EU, India and Brazil.

The meeting, to be held in the Indian Embassy, starts in the afternoon and was expected to continue to late night. Although agriculture is expected to still be the main focus, other issues especially services and NAMA (non agricultural market access) will also be discussed.

The EU is particularly insistent that these other issues be covered simultaneously, although the other members would like to focus on agriculture, according to a diplomatic source. This is because the EU has linked its 28 October agriculture offer to others accepting its demands on services and NAMA.

Ahead of the meeting, the Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath has written a letter to Ministers of all WTO members, asking that they put development concerns ahead of market access concerns, and stating in brief the Indian position in some areas.

On Tuesday, the action will shift to Geneva. A "Green Room" meeting is scheduled to be held in the afternoon, with more than 20 Ministers expected to take part. Whether Ambassadors of some countries will also be invited is not known.

Before that, the WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy is expected in the late morning to meet with the Chairs of the various negotiating groups, presumably to brief them on the London meeting's outcome.

Resulting from the meetings on Monday and Tuesday, which may also spill over to Wednesday, a clearer picture will emerge on whether there is enough "convergence" on the various issues for the Hong Kong Ministerial conference to deliver key decisions such as the modalities for negotiations in agriculture and NAMA.

Hopes that Hong Kong will produce "full modalities" (with numbers attached to the formulae) have already faded, even for agriculture, where most of the negotiating energy has been spent in recent months.