Update from John Clarke, DG Trade, European Commission at ?Civil Society Dialogue? meeting

Original Publication Date: 
16 February, 2004

Overview of DDA negotiations

Issued communication in November which took on board some advise received from you, which was formally endorsed by the council. This represents the current formal position in its efforts to launch negotiations after the collapse of Cancun. As world largest trading bloc it sent a strong signal to get negotiations back on track. However although major participant cannot act alone as depends on other countries showing interest. Positive development that there has been more general interest among a large number of countries to get the DDA negotiations started again and not allow 2004 to be a wasted year. In addition to EU contribution, a number of useful statements were made, India, Brazil China, US Canada, Japan a number of African countries get go back to the negotiation table and get negotiations back on track. Have seen in last days more interest in Geneva.

Process in next few months. Intensify negotiations with objectives to arrive at point we should have arrived in Cancun. Well before summer agree basic framework modalities. Agree in April, May or June next stage of negotiations, framework for agriculture, formula for tariff reduction in NAMA and decisions how to deal with new issues. Is ambitious objective but not just sought by EU.

On agriculture it was not necessary for the EU to identify new flexibilities in agriculture, EU had already demonstrated large degree of flexibility which is still extreme sensitive issue. Willing to eliminate export subsidies in entirety on products of interest to developing countries and willing to negotiate reductions in domestic support. Offer made in Cancun should remain. On services and NAMA maintain same level of ambitions as period before Cancun, no reason to move away from flexible approach. On services EU offer is one of the most constructive and flexible offers. Listened to concerns to Singapore issues. Proposal formalized in Communication is a different approach. As endorsed by Council remove issues from single undertaking, negotiate without countries being obliged to sign up. Extremely important change of position. Not one we necessarily like or favour but was inevitable as there was lot of opposition. Reasons are debatable but that is reality. Negotiate on plurilateral basis. This was welcomed by most trading partners.

Number of other countries have also reviewed their position. Brazil took very political position in Cancun. Since then take a less political strong line and take a constructive approach. Same is true for African countries who were not in position to negotiate in Cancun. Have also send strong signal. Lamy had discussions with African countries to reach by May or June agreements we reached in Cancun. India with economic reduction and reduction of poverty Indian governments feels I a more comfortable position to engage in negotiations. Said would be able to review offer on services which was very poor. India shows some new flexibility on Singapore issue, for first time open to negotiate trade facilitation.

US also showing desire to make progress in DDA despite being an election year. If it will get fast track authority extension in 2005 needs to show good progress in trade negotiations. FTAA negotiations will not be enough to convince congress of fast track extensions extension. US will work with EU to reach frameworks. Letter of Zoellick welcomed by EU for meaningful progress in Geneva.

Want to adopt decision on modalities by May, just question of will. Not talking about specific figures due to sensitivities. Now that chairs have been appointed serious relaunch.

Speculation about new Ministerial. EU approach first make progress on negotiations, and then consider next ministerial. Quite a lot can be done in Geneva without ministerial work.

Question and answer session

Oxfam: feedback on G 20 meeting last week and feedback in Geneva on EU approach to Singapore issues.

EC: Meeting last week between commission official and g 20 group headed by brazil which is an agricultural group seeking ambitious agricultural reforms of developed countries. Spent a lot of time explaining CAP reform and actual impacts and to explain current state of CAP reform for Mediterranean products and cotton proposal.

Reaction for Singapore issues. Some countries are concerned and opposed to plurilateral negotiations, that the WTO is a multilateral organization or worried that in a couple of years pressure will be squeezed to join. EC aims to negotiate investment and competition in a completely open process. Still have some work to do. Not willing to abandon idea to have rules on FDI or competition