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Monday, 03 April 2017

Uncertainty Over WTO Negotiating Chair Overshadows Farm Trade Talks

A continued disagreement among governments over who should chair the WTO’s farm trade negotiations overshadowed talks in the global trade body’s regular committee on agriculture this week, sources said. New Zealand Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis, who was appointed to chair the farm trade talks in September 2015, returned to Wellington in January, leaving vacant a key role in the global trade body’s negotiating machinery. Sources told Bridges that efforts to overcome the deadlock have so far been unsuccessful, after different country groups put forward officials from Hong Kong, Uruguay, and Mexico as possible alternatives. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo called a meeting to try to break the deadlock last Friday; however, sources said that so far little progress had been achieved. Trade sources speaking to Bridges stressed the urgency of finding a new chair and restarting talks promptly, warning that the issue was taking away precious negotiating time ahead of the upcoming WTO ministerial conference, which is scheduled to be held in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires this December. While the next regular session of the Committee on Agriculture is scheduled for 7 June, there are currently no planned meetings of the negotiating body, in the absence of any agreement on the chair.

Source: International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development