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WTO members long way from finalising Doha round work programme

Press Trust of India  |  Geneva 

There has been a "sombre" progress by WTO members in finalising a work programme by July for the Doha round of talks and they are "a long way" from reaching an agreement on agriculture.

"I have to be frank with you: my assessment today is a sombre one. We are a long way from where we should be given the July deadline. In key areas we are, as yet, far from convergence on certain threshold issues. This in turn inhibits progress on other issues," said John Adank, the Chairperson of agriculture negotiations in the WTO at an informal meeting on agriculture.

"The intensive process in which we have been engaged has still not seen delegations move from entrenched positions or find acceptable ways around them. Doing so is the urgent challenge that is still ahead of us," said the New Zealand diplomat.

WTO Members have to thrash out a work programme by July 31 to conclude the Doha rounds as mandated by the members last November.

The informal meeting on agriculture had discussions on all three pillars of agriculture-domestic support, market access and export competition.

The "threshold" issues cited by the diplomat included safeguards, de minimis and blue box support, public stockholding for food security purposes, and cotton. Public stockholding discussions, however, also have a separate, dedicated track for discussion.

The so-called Group of 33 (G-33) that includes India wants the issue of safeguards included in the text that would allow them to address concerns of import surges that could threaten the livelihoods of their farmers.

The Indian ambassador to the WTO, Anjali Prasad, said that special safeguard mechanisms that the G33 has proposed are critical to rebalancing elements of existing inequalities.

"Hence we see the special safeguard mechanism and the separate proposal on special products as critical outcomes of the Nairobi ministerial," said the Indian official.

India warned against the dilution of special and differential treatment and said that this is which are central to any outcome.

Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the G-33, reiterated its emphasis on special products, safeguards and food security.

The groups' proposal on public stockholding is a legitimate basis for discussions for a permanent solution.

"This proposal concern hundreds and thousands of farmers across our countries," Indonesia said.

The US Ambassador to the WTO, Michael Punke, said it was not realistic to ask the US and a few other member states to carry the Doha round alone. Emerging economy have to carry their weight commensurate with their role in the world economy, he emphasised.

"I repeat my advice firstly to keep in mind the collective mandate, that is to find a permanent solution, and secondly to move beyond the assertion of well-stated positions," said Adank.

Agriculture has been the most important difficult elements in concluding the Doha Round.

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First Published: Sat, April 25 2015. 01:42 IST