FYI: Expect Possible WTO Ministerial Quite Soon

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 12/02/2008 09:02:00 AM
Trade watchers, take note: WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy may decide to invite trade officials for a ministerial in a fortnight or so according to the following Reuters report. Updated draft modalities should be circulated this week and the response to them should help Lamy gauge the mood for making a Doha Round breakthrough. Having since decided to go ahead with distributing these texts, it looks like the D-G has an optimistic enough outlook. This follows on from recent postings about ministers being keen on completing Doha as well as discussions about completing it at the recent G-20. Potential hold-ups this time around include insistence by LDCs to allow further Mode 4 migration, which industrialized countries like the US usually argue are immigration and not trade matters. The article suggests however that Mode 4 and other "cross-border services" issues will be left for another time:
The chairmen of two key negotiating groups [agricultural and non-agricultural, naturally] in the Doha world trade round talks will update their texts this week in anticipation of a ministerial meeting in December, diplomats said on Sunday. Speaking after a meeting with World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy, negotiators said the papers providing an updated snapshot of farming and industrial goods negotiations would be circulated Thursday or Friday.

"(Lamy) is hoping to get some kind of texts by the end of the week," Brazil's WTO ambassador Roberto Azevedo said. Another participant in the meetings said "a period of reflection" would follow the release of those texts, during which the WTO's 153 members will decide whether it is time to call in ministers to push for an accord. About 10 days are needed between the time a ministerial meeting is called and the start of the high-level gathering. "It would be tight to hit the early part of the (December) 10th to (December) 19th range," the official noted.

Lamy said on Saturday he increasingly was inclined to invite ministers to Geneva to seek a breakthrough in the long-sought Doha accord, which U.S. President George W. Bush and other leaders have called for as a way to bolster the troubled world economy [especially at the G-20].

An agreement in the Doha round would cut subsidies and tariffs on thousands of exported goods and cross-border services, prying open food, fuel, transportation and other markets and therefore encouraging global economic activity.

Recent talks between Geneva diplomats have advanced in some areas but remained stuck in others, raising questions about whether a Doha deal is actually within reach. If it occurs, the December ministerial would focus on agriculture and industrial goods and leave talks on cross-border services for a later date.