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Bolivia wil inclusief WTO-onderhandelingsproces en is bezorgd om mogelijke tijdsdruk op vrijdag

Bolivia liet WTO-voorzitter Lamy vandaag weten dat het het exclusieve onderhandelingsproces van de lopende WTO-top afwijst. Bij de feitelijke onderhandelingen is slechts een klein deel van de lidstaten betrokken. Voor Bolivia zal het onacceptable zijn indien er op vrijdag aangepaste teksten worden gepresenteerd door de WTO-leiding waarbij de landen die zijn buitengesloten van het onderhandelingsproces minder dan 24 uur hebben om er mee ijn te stemmen. Op deze wijze kan er geen concensus worden verwacht. Overigens vraagt Bolivia hiermee niet om een plek bij de Green Room-zittingen. aldus delegatiehoofd Solon.

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WTO: Bolivia calls for more inclusive WTO negotiations process

23 Jul, Geneva (Riaz K. Tayob) — Bolivia informed WTO Director General, Pascal Lamy, that it did not agree with the process for discussions at WTO mini-ministerial discussions on the Doha Development Agenda.

At the press briefing yesterday, Bolivia’s Amb. Pablo Solon said, that this did not mean that it was seeking to be part of the Green Room.

The Mini-Ministerial which began Monday is scheduled to continue till Saturday, depending on progress. Discussions are mostly taking place in a ‘Green Room’ process for reaching an agreement at the Doha Round of negotiations at the mini-Ministerial Conference.

The Green Room process refers to a process whereby a select few WTO members meet privately to discuss issues in order to advance the negotiations. The outcome of the discussions will be presented to the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) which
will take note of the reports of the Chairs of Agriculture and NAMA (Non-agricultural Market Access) groups.

Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solon said there were three main areas of concern in the negotiations, 1)  the process, 2) substantive issues and 3) gaps or missing issues in the negotiations.

On process, the Green Room process was something Bolivia could not agree to. Solon said that he made it clear to Lamy that this was not a request to be part of the privileged group of countries part of the Green Room (see below for an unofficial
list). Solon said, that it is as if these privileged WTO members were climbing Mount Blanc and looking down over Geneva and relating to other members how Geneva looked from high up. Bolivia, he said, would prefer it if all members climbed the mountain together.

Solon said Bolivia was very concerned about what will transpire at the end of the week. It would be unacceptable for Bolivia that revised texts would appear on Friday and the countries not in the Green Room would have twenty four hours within which to agree to a text at the Saturday TNC meeting. Solon emphasised, we cannot build consensus with a ‘take it or leave it’ formula.

On substance, developing countries are giving “water” implying that the commitments have limited value. [Water in WTO parlance refers to commitments by countries that, for instance, limit the maximum allowed subsidy but do not cut into the actual subsidies paid to farmers; or that cut bound/maximum tariffs but do not affect the tariffs actually applied/used].

Developed countries are giving “water” in agricultural subsidies while they expect developing countries to make actual commitments in the NAMA negotiations. Developing countries are asked to reduce tariffs while the US offer to reduce its
Overall Trade Distorting Support (OTDS – one form of allowable subsidies) to USD 15 billion. Solon said in 2007 the US paid about USD 7bn, so (with this offer) they are not going to reduce anything in reality.

In the NAMA negotiations, some developed countries will reduce their tariffs, in percentage terms, less than even Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), Solon said. Developed countries will cut tariffs by between 25 to 30 percent while developing
countries are asked to cut between 40 and 60 percent. It is unfair that developed countries make cuts that are half of what developing countries are obliged to make.

The agricultural discussions includes a Special Safeguard Measure (SSM). SSM is a mechanism to assist developing countries to raise barriers to imports in the event of a import volume surge or import price change that negatively affects farmers. On the SSM, Solon said there are proposals to put so many limitations that it would be worse (less effective) than the safeguard mechanism, the so called the SSG, which currently is  available mainly to developed country producers.

On services, Solon said the intention was to try and approve a new text, even though there is no commitment to do so. Bolivia it said sought to exclude basic services, which it regards as human rights, from the General Agreement on Trade in
Services (GATS). Human rights, he said, cannot be part of bargaining in trade negotiations.

On intellectual property, it said the agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) states that members “may” exclude patentability of life forms. Bolivia sought to change the agreement to replace “may” with “must” to have a clear prohibition on the patenting of life forms. The future of humanity depends on this struggle. Solon added, this is crucial for Bolivia and was the vision of indigenous peoples all around the world.

Solon said it was also important to secure a clear interpretation of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) article XXIV, the regional integration clause. Developed countries cannot ask for reciprocity in bilateral or regional trading arrangements from developing countries if at the WTO the principle is less than full reciprocity. Reciprocity then is not acceptable in bilateral and regional agreements that developed countries demand, for instance, in the Economic Partnership Agreements (regional integration agreements of the EU).

The missing issues, or the gaps in the discussions, at the WTO, Solon said, relate to the food and energy crises and climate change.

Free trade would worsen the food crisis, and was not the answer. States need to have the right to guarantee food in adequate quantities and prices. This meant the right to regulate imports and exports, Solon said.

Solon reported that on climate change, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, in a recent letter to Lamy, that imported food may be cheap if the environmental costs are not taken into account. If these costs are taken into account, then the conclusion was that it is healthy to prioritise what is locally produced. Foreign trade is a complement to local production and policies should not favour foreign markets over domestic ones, Solon said.

During the discussions, Solon was asked if he was pessimistic about a deal. He replied, if we are looking for a developmental round, this is not going to be accomplished by the end of the week. There should be a discussions to take a new road to the WTO negotiations so they take into account the real problems faced by people and the earth.

Solon was asked what is the point of being a WTO member if it is going down the path of liberalisation and whether Bolivia considered leaving the WTO.

Solon said that Bolivia had not considered leaving the WTO. However the WTO however must begin to discuss the real problems of its members and spend less (time) on the “myths of free trade.” Free trade as such does not exist, Solon said. About one
third of trade was intra-company and the other third is trade which includes subsidies. He said the WTO should talk about real issues as trade is necessary but discussions cannot take place underpinned by myths.