WTO “framework” text to be revised

The two parts of the frame­work text issued by the Trade Nego­ti­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair (Ambas­sador Oshi­ma) last week­end that have attract­ed the strongest objec­tions are those on Agri­cul­ture (draft­ed by NZ Ambas­sador Tim Gross­er) and on Non-agri­cul­tur­al mar­ket access. As he fore­shad­owed a week ago, Gross­er is going to attempt a ‘re-write’ of his text on Wednes­day in the light of reac­tions to his first draft. But there will be time for only one such attempt before the meet­ing ends this Fri­day and the Trade Min­is­ters in Gene­va return home. The key stick­ing point, accord­ing to “this”:http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=SR4FRYPDJDYAYCRBAEKSFFA?type=reutersEdge&storyID=5788145&pageNumber=0 Reuter’s report seems to be G-20 objec­tions to the “very broad concession”:http://www.petergallagher.com.au/textpattern/index.php?event=article&step=edit&ID=286 made to pro­tec­tion of sensititve[1] prod­ucts in indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries (EU, USA, Japan). bq. India’s Com­merce and Indus­try Min­is­ter Kamal Nath told reporters at the WTO the doc­u­ment was “seri­ous­ly flawed.” EU sub­si­dies were ille­gal under WTO rules so devel­op­ing coun­tries “should not have to pay a price for these dis­tor­tions to be cut.” (“Reuters”:http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=SR4FRYPDJDYAYCRBAEKSFFA?type=reutersEdge&storyID=5788145&pageNumber=0) But this is sim­ply a tac­ti­cal objec­tion. What the G20—and par­tic­u­lar­ly India—real­ly want is to have the nar­row­er and vaguer pro­vi­sions on ‘spe­cial’ prod­ucts that Devel­op­ing coun­tries will be allowed to exempt from mar­ket access reforms made as broad and as gen­er­ous as the cur­rent text’s pro­vi­sions for indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries’ ‘sen­si­tive’ prod­ucts. The NAMA text—also under attack—takes the nego­ti­a­tions no fur­ther than the posi­tion they had reached at Can­cún last Sep­tem­ber. My guess it that it would prob­a­bly be accept­ed in a ‘pack­age’ that con­tained an agreed out­come on agri­cul­ture. fn1. The cur­rent Frame­work text offers the rich coun­tries a reform ‘cop-out’ clause—not yet ful­ly described — for so-called ‘sen­si­tive’ prod­ucts that it defines as poten­tial­ly all prod­ucts cur­rent­ly pro­tect­ed by a Tar­iff Quo­ta. That’s at least 1400 prod­uct lines world wide, accord­ing to the lat­est WTO data; hun­dreds of prod­ucts in coun­tries such as Nor­way and Switzer­land and dozens in both the EU and USA.

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