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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Consensus remains elusive as WTO ministerial looms

WTO members are struggling to find consensus on a host of topics as the 15-17 December ministerial meeting draws nearer. Despite a plethora of proposals on possible non-Doha work, ranging from least developed country (LDC) accessions through to humanitarian food aid, deep-seated divisions between members continue to stymie progress on even a low-ambition outcome for the gathering, sources say.

Amid growing uncertainty over whether trade ministers will be able to reach agreement on a joint ministerial declaration, with one official calling it a “more and more remote possibility,” some trade officials told “Bridges Weekly” that the conference might now aim merely to produce a ‘chair’s statement’, describing some of the issues that ministers had discussed.

Although less authoritative than a collective communiqué by members, the tactic could allow the global trade body to skirt some of the disagreements that have emerged in the wake of countries’ recognition that the Doha Round of trade talks remains at an impasse. […]

The African Group has submitted a set of proposals, including for a ‘standstill provision’ that would freeze domestic support for cotton at historically-low current levels. In addition, net-food importing developing countries have argued in favour of a work programme on food price volatility. The African Group has also proposed providing greater flexibility to least-developed and developing countries that wish to join the WTO.

The G-90, which includes the African Group, the ACP (African, Caribbean, and Pacific) Group, and least developed countries, is also bringing a proposal on mainstreaming development within the scope of the Committee on Trade and Development.

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Also have a look at the latest Cotton newsletter produced by the ideasCENTRE on the 10th anniversary of the WTO.