December 1, 2008
WTO talks in progress amid uncertain "clear-cut" agreements
The World Trade Organization's chief agriculture negotiator said Friday (Nov 28) that some progress had been made in recent talks but a "clear cut" agreement that would lead to a global trade deal remained out of reach.
The picture is "reasonably positive but not as positive as I would have liked or as positive as you would need," Crawford Falconer, who is also New Zealand's ambassador to the WTO, told delegates of the trade bloc.
Agriculture forms a major part of ongoing negotiations for a global trade liberalization pact, and for the current Doha Round to be concluded, member states would have to come to an agreement on the issue.
As ministers may be called to a meeting next month in a bid to finally conclude the round, negotiations have heated up in the past week in Geneva.
Falconer said that while there was "progress that is valuable in some areas," negotiators were still a way from a deal.
"I have to say that we didn't get to what I would call clear cut agreement on any of the big ticket items," he said.
Even during Friday's meeting, the G10 group of food-importing countries rejected a proposal put forward by the G20 group of developing countries on agricultural tariffs, saying that it "contains requests that would be impossible to accept."
"It is the last opportunity for members to engage in realistic positions. We do not see, otherwise, how a possible ministerial meeting before the end of the year could be successful. The G20 paper is not however a contribution to this end," said the G10 whose members include Switzerland, Japan and South Korea.
Developing countries are seeking greater access to industrialized markets for their agricultural goods. Developed nations are in turn pressing for a better deal for their manufactured products on developing markets.