In remarks to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) General Council, Director-General Lamy indicated there are “signs of momentum” to re-engage the Doha negotiating agenda. Lamy also pointed out that familiar obstacles remained in terms of reaching a comprehensive agreement, but urged members to focus on areas where deliverables might be achieved.
One such area is trade facilitation, where negotiations continue along several tracks. Press reports indicate that Australia’s Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, recently traveled to Geneva to push for a conclusion to the trade facilitation agreement. The minister met with representatives of the Cairns Group and other WTO members. The Minister offered that a trade facilitation agreement joined with some deliverables from the Doha agricultural agreement, as well as special and sensitive products, could make a substantial contribution toward the Doha agenda overall goals.
Several countries’ trade representatives pointed to concerns of achieving balance with any “early harvest.” Some reports indicate that several envoys stressed the importance of a cotton solution as part of any early harvest. Market access issues in special and sensitive products continue to be a major stumbling block.
In a related development, the Group of 20 (G-20) developing countries, an alliance in the WTO, presented two new proposals for the agriculture negotiations. One of the proposals addresses the administration of tariff quotas or, more specifically, how imports within the quotas are shared among importers when duties inside the quotas are lower than on quantities outside. The second proposal focuses on export subsidies and other forms of export competition such as export credit/insurance, state trading enterprises and food aid.
Brazil also indicated that in its view, export competition and cotton subsidies are contenders for areas that could be agreed on ahead of a full agreement.
The US cotton industry will continue to push that any changes to the cotton program must be part of and not in advance of an overall, comprehensive agreement.