Manoeuvring on the Framework text

The next two weeks, in the run-up to the WTO’s Gen­er­al Coun­cil meet­ing, will prob­a­bly see a lot of pub­lic the­atre and pri­vate arm-twist­ing over the pro­posed ‘frame­work’ for con­clud­ing the negotiations—particularly the agri­cul­tur­al sec­tion of it. But I’m stick­ing to “my view”: that the rather mod­est ideas in the “cur­rent text”: on agri­cul­ture will sur­vive large­ly intact. In typ­i­cal­ly haughty style, Pres­i­dent Chirac dis­missed the entire frame­work (as usu­al, for “Europe’s inter­ests” please read “France’s inter­ests”): bq.  “This pro­pos­al is pro­found­ly unbal­anced to the detri­ment of the inter­ests of the Euro­pean Union,” Chirac said.(“UPI”:–010809-6982r) But his Trade Min­is­ter, François Loos, trans­lat­ed this into a nego­tiable objec­tion bq.  “We are ask­ing for full par­al­lelism to be restored,” wrote French Trade Min­is­ter Fran­cois Loos in the news­pa­per Le Figaro Thurs­day. “If the Amer­i­cans agree to get rid of their cred­its it would be a promis­ing start.” (“UPI”:–010809-6982r) Brazil, on behalf of the G‑20, is also manoeu­vring on the text. In an appar­ent ref­er­ence to the pro­pos­al that indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries should have the ‘flex­i­bilty’ to con­tin­ue to pro­tect their most high­ly pro­tect­ed (‘sensitive&#8217)markets the Brazil­ians are argu­ing that bq. ” …there is a clear imbal­ance between cer­tain major points that are guar­an­teed at the out­set for devel­oped coun­tries and oth­er points of fun­da­men­tal impor­tance for devel­op­ing coun­tries.” (“AFP”: The text pro­posed by the Chair­man of the nego­ti­at­ing group—NZ Ambas­sador Tim Grosser—does not attempt to ful­ly define, at this stage, the ‘flex­i­bilty’ to be avail­able to devel­op­ing coun­tries. On the whole, these state­ments should prob­a­bly be read as posi­tion­ing for lat­er nego­ti­a­tion rather than rejec­tion of the frame­work. But they amount to an attack, from two flanks, on the cur­rent draft frame­work which is already rather shaky and vague on key points, par­tic­u­lar­ly on mar­ket access. Whether the frame­work can sur­vive these assaults may now depend on where the US comes out on the cur­rent text. So far it has made no pub­lic statement.

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