Brazil upbeat on agriculture outcome, ACP Group confirm their stand on Singapore issues

10 September, 2003
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Brazil upbeat on agriculture outcome, ACP Group confirm their stand on Singapore issues

TWN Report from Cancun by Cecilia Oh, 11 September 2003

The Group of 21 (G21) developing countries (on agriculture issues) is resolved to act as a bloc in Cancun and its members are upbeat about the prospects of a good outcome in agriculture. Meanwhile the ACP Group, which has over 50 members in the WTO, reaffirmed their position against negotiations on the four Singapore issues. This emerged from two seperate press briefings at the Conference Centre today.

Brazillian Minister, Celso Amorim, said that the G21 was "fully satisfied" that the Conference Chair will ensure that the contribution of the Group will be considered in the agenda and work programme of the Conference.

He added the Group also had a very useful meeting with the Facilitator appointed to deal with the agriculture negotiations. Singapore Minister, George Yeo, has been appointed to be the Facilitator for the agriculture negotiations.

Mr Amorim said that the members of the Group had met with the Facilitator who had had the opportunity to hear each member's views. He said that although individual members placed different emphasis on different aspects of the issue, they all presented a coherent message to the Facilitator. Mr Amorim said that the members had presented their views on the main theme of the G21 proposal - "agriculture trade reform with a focus on developing country needs". "We gave our views on how things should proceed. All suggestions went in the same direction", he said.

The G21 were in agreement that they wanted negotiations to proceed. However, they have also made it clear that they would not accept the situation where a prepared text by the facilitator is treated as fait accompli.

In response to a question on negotiating process as to whether the Group was confident that the experience of Doha would not repeated - wherein Members had been presented with draft texts prepared without consultation or agreement of the Members - Mr Amorim replied that the Chair of a Conference has a role and would be asked to draft text. " We need to have negotiations to the maximum, not confessionals". (This was a reference to the method of employed at Doha, of the Chair or Facilitator consulting with one or two delegations at a time, so that most delegations were often in the dark, or at least, unclear about the positions of the others.) He said that all members wanted negotiations, sometimes by proxy, but not negotiations by "small groups".

When asked how confident was he that the Facilitator would allow for full negotiations on the issue, Mr Amorim said that the Facilitator in playing the role of an honest broker would have to allow time for negotiations to take place.

Mr Amorim also brushed aside questions regarding the attempts of the European Union to weaken the alliance using the trade preference issue. "I have not seen any evidence of this" he said in respect of the rumour that the EU had been trying to persuade the African countries against joining the G21. "It is normal for delegations to talk to each other, and members have had discussions with the EU, as has Brazil", he added.

Asked if he expected more Members to join the alliance, he said that the main task was not of aggregating the numbers. He added however that he would not be surprised if more Members joined the Group. "Even if some Members do not join us, we can still count on their tacit support, which is just as important", he said.

As for whether the G21 would join hands with the group of 23 developing countries which had come together to put forward their demands on special products and the special safeguard mechanisms, he replied that there was a need for all countries to put their demands on the table, but declined to elaborate on the matter at this stage.

Mr Amorim highlighted the strength of developing countries when they came together on an issue, referring to the experience of the developing country coalition on the TRIPS and public health issue. At Doha, there was no G21 but on the subject which developing countries really were together, they did make progress.

If the EU gives the G21 what they want in agriculture, will they get a trade off in the Singapore issues? In response to this question, Mr Amorim said they had not reached this stage yet. He said that the Singapore issues would be decided at Cancun (in terms of the decision to launch negotiations) but the outcome of the agriculture negotiations could not be decided here.

He added that there were also other issues of interest to Members. Implementation issues were also important, for instance, Brazil had put forward proposals on TRIPS and CBD compatibility. However, he concluded that, "if there is no progress on agriculture, nothing will happen".

ACP Group reiterates opposition to negotiating Singapore Issues

Earlier, at another press briefing organized by the ACP Group (which has over 50 WTO members in the group) , its chief spokesperson at the Ministerial Conference, Botswana Minister of Trade and Industry, Jacob Nkate, said that on the Singapore issues, the ACP Group already had taken a clear position. The Singapore issues need further clarification, and the ACP countries have said they are not prepared to start negotiations on these issues. In any case, there are other outstanding issues in the WTO that will require addressing. He said that the ACP countries would persuade their partners that the course to take is that of further clarification.

He also said that that negotiations on the Singapore issues would be premature. On the possible "un-bundling" of the four Singapore issues, he had no mandate from his constituency to separate the issues.

Responding to a question on the TRIPS and public health "deal", the Minister said that he did not think the agreement on the deal has weakened their negotiating position vis-à-vis market access (NAMA). He said that he had not received any indication that the deal had been agreed to as a concession by developed countries to be exchanged in return for concessions from developing countries. In fact, he said the ACP was encouraged that the agreement augurs well for the possibility of reaching agreement on other issues.

He said that the ACP countries are aware that they were in a negotiating process, but that the Group would work towards making sure that their interests were taken on board, especially those related to agriculture and development issues. He said that Members have to acknowledge the peculiar position of developing countries, which must be allowed to develop gradually according to their respective capacities.

Asked if there was a "make or break" issue for the ACP countries, the Minister said whilst development and agriculture issues were very important for them, the Cancun Ministerial is only a mid-term review. It would not be correct to speak of make or break issues at this stage.


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