Lamy admits of differences on tariffs in agri

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New Delhi, July 29 (UNI) Even while insisting on intensive negotations in September to rescue global trade talks, World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy has, however, admitted of "some significant differences" among members on tariffs in agriculture and industrial goods.

In his report to the General Council of the world trade body in Geneva last week, he said recent meetings pointed to the negotiators' "high level of commitment to concluding the ( Doha ) Round". While admitting of "some significant differences, " Lamy, however, said "convergence is within our reach if you are all ready to show the necessary will and flexibility to close the gaps." Referring to two informal meetings of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) on June 6 and 22, and one formal meeting held on July 26, he said two drafts circulated by Chairs on agriculture and non-agriculture market access (NAMA) are only draft texts and not negotiated or agreed texts.

But these texts provide an opportunity to members to negotiate at a more concrete, intense and specific level. These texts will have to be revised in the light of the views expressed by participants in the TNC. These papers identify possible areas of convergence and areas where gaps will still need to be bridged.

Lamy said delegations now have the month of August to reflect fully, and then come prepared to engage in an intensive negotiation from September 3; first on agriculture and a month later on NAMA.

''It is important that everybody is fit and ready on the starting line'' by September 3 when negotiations resume.

WTO chief reminded members that the objective of the world trade body is not only to establish full modalities in agriculture and NAMA, but also to make commensurate progress in other areas of the negotiations in line with the full Doha mandates, the July 2004 Decision and the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration. This is the only possible path to an ambitious, balanced and development-oriented outcome to the Round.

Lamy said the TNC have received reports from all Negotiating Group Chairs, including on services and rules.

Referring to statements made by participants at the July 26 meeting, the WTO director-general said these indicated members' commitment to concluding the Round. Evenwhile stating that there are some significant differences which remain to be resolved, Lamy said, ''convergence is within our reach if you are all ready to show the necessary will and flexibility to close the gaps.'' He said, ''What we now have in sight represents a very significant package of trade opening and rule-making, and a strong collective commitment to work for a more development-friendly world trading system.'' The distance left to go to achieve all of this is not so great. It will require a good dose of extra effort by all participants, but it can be done, he added.

The Doha Round, which has been in the works for close to six years now, is deadlocked because of differences between the developing and developed countries on reduction in tariff on agriculture and industrial goods.

The draft on agriculture has called for a reduction to between 13 to 16.4 billion dollars in subsidy by the United States, but the latter remains unmoved from its offer to retain the 17 billion dollar bill it had made during the failed G-4 talks among four key members of the WTO - the European Union, the US, Brazil and India - last month at Potsdam in Germany.

On industrial tariff, developing countries hold the view that the Swiss coefficient suggested in the new draft did not fall in line with two important principles of the Doha Round's development mandate - that of "Less Than Full Reciprocity" (LFTR) in reduction of commitments and comparable levels of ambition in NAMA and agrciultre. Swiss coefficient suggests lower the coefficient, highter the tariff cut.

NAMA-11 countries had demanded that there should be a difference of 25 in coefficient between the developed and developing countries.

But draft before the NAMA Chair has Swiss coefficient of eogjt to nine for developed countries and 19-23 for developing countries, meaning a difference of only 11-14, which is not acceptable to developing countries.

It is apparantly these significant differences Lamy has referred to in his report submitted to the General Council of the WTO on last Friday. It remains to be seen how the developing and developed countries bridge these gaps before the year is out to save the Doha Round from collapse.


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