The head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has postponed a meeting to discuss how to achieve agreement on a so-called “deliverables” package for the WTO's December ministerial conference, which is designed to restore confidence in the Doha Round negotiations.
WTO Director-General Lamy’s decision to postpone the meeting confirms reports of disagreement over the possible content of a December package.
“The meeting will now take place on Wednesday 22 June … and not on 9 June as originally scheduled,” Lamy said.
WTO members have agreed to attempt to develop a so-called deliverables package to be presented to the Dec. 15-17 ministerial conference, following the admission in late March that differences between the United States and major emerging economies on market access issues had not been bridged in the Doha talks. Members also are expected to decide at the December meeting on how to proceed in 2012 on the remaining issues on the Doha agenda, including the central issues of market access in agriculture, services and industrial goods.
Lamy told WTO members on May 31 that priority in the December package should be given to issues of direct interest to least developed countries (LDC), including duty-free/quota-free (DFQF) market access for LDC, a waiver from a future Doha services agreement and a “step forward” on cotton.
The battle already has begun over how many additional issues, if any, should be added to the package, with the United States suggesting trade facilitation, limits on fisheries subsidies, reducing tariffs on environmental goods, and others as possible candidates. The United States also warned that it would not sign off on concessions in areas such as DFQF and cotton subsidies if other major trading nations—including emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India—did not make their own contributions.
US ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke warned on May 31 that if WTO members want to address cotton subsidies, then “everybody's cotton programs must be on the table,” including those of China, which is suspected of substantially increasing its cotton subsidies in recent years.
WTO officials also have confirmed that David Walker, chairman of the Doha agriculture negotiations and New Zealand's former ambassador to the WTO, will step down from his post in the near future. Walker was appointed to replace fellow New Zealander Crawford Falconer to chair the Doha farm talks in April 2009 after Falconer was recalled to New Zealand. A WTO official said the chair of the WTO's ruling General Council, Nigeria's WTO ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah, would consult with members on a replacement for Walker.