The goal of this paper is to report on the DG Trade "party line," as reported to civil society at the three DG Trade/Civil Society Dialogue meetings held thus far in 2003. John Clarke spoke with civil society at the 29 January and 4 March meetings. Pascal Lamy spoke at the 25 March meeting.
The paper has been divided into the different issues discussed at the three meetings, including SDT, the environment, the so-called Singapore issues, TRIPs, GATS, agriculture, CAP reform, non-agriculture market access, SIAs, and mini-ministerials. After these 10 sections, there is a brief analysis of civil society involvement (as commented upon by Clarke and Lamy), as well as a general impression of where we are now, after the 25 March meeting with Lamy.
This paper is informal in nature. ICDA's hope is to continue this process of analysis with future DG Trade / Civil Society dialogue meetings and perhaps use the paper to develop questions for Lamy at future meetings, in the spirit of holding him accountable for past remarks. The next of these dialogue meetings is scheduled for 20-22 May 2003.
We look forward to any comments or suggestions that will make this paper more coherent and concise.
Finally, the minutes from each of the meetings analysed in this report are available at the ICDA Secretariat. For a copy of any of these, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ICDA Secretariat, 3 April 2003 (Draft 1)
DOHA AS "DEVELOPMENT" ROUND (SDT & DEVELOPMENT)
Is Doha a development round ? Utilising a well-loved DG Trade saying, on 29 January, Clarke stated that the proof of this is in the pudding and thus still remains to be seen. On 25 March, Lamy, while renewing the « proof will be in the pudding » sentiments of Clarke, also stated that we can « bid on » Doha being a development round . The issue has been streamlined into all negotiations.
Reports on SDT were the same on 4 March & 25 March : SDT is relevant for the WTO, but there is no agreement on what that SDT should entail. Lamy called this a « tactical game » and the EU is working to soften the US and Japan's stance in this area.
On 29 January, Clarke recognized that Doha had produced only « weak » and « modest » mandates. Lamy, while not reinforcing this idea, confirmed that progress in this area was slow at the 25 March meeting. One gain was the recent approval of MEA observership at environmental negotiations. Both refered to the lack of civil society involvement : Clarke made reference specifically to environment NGOs, and Lamy referred to all non-state actors. They seemed to be saying, we aren't getting very far in this area (and other areas of the Doha round), but either are you ! !
SINGAPORE ISSUES (RULES)
Despite both Clarke and Lamy pondering over the seemingly inexplicable controversy around this issue (Clarke said it was receiving a lot of « unjust controversy »), the most significant change in this issue over the three meetings was the increasingly positive outlook about the possibility of these negotiations beginning post-Cancun.
According to Clarke, as of 29 January, work had been constructive in the four Singapore issues (investment, competition policy, government procurement, and trade facilitation). He believed it was a « good position to be in before Cancun ».
At the 4 March meeting, Clarke noted a change of tone on the issues at the Tokyo mini-ministerial. Prior to Tokyo, there was a principal objection to having any negotiations at all on these issues. At Tokyo, all were engaged in the substance of the issues, although the basic foundation for these negotiations has not reached consensus (i.e. scope of trade in investement, etc.). Lamy said little that was new in this area on 25 March - just that there had been progress in the 'substance' of these issues.
(ICDA note : Pushpendra from ActionAidAlliance made an interesting point about the rhetoric used by the EU around these issues. They call the talks on new issues « negotiations » instead of « discussions, » when negotiations aren't to begin until after Cancun. Manipulating the language in this way, however, suggests that these 'negotiations' are already a given. It will be interesting to keep an eye out for this in the months leading up to Cancun .)
On 29 January, Clarke stated that the EU was acting as a middleperson in the split between the US and developing countries on access to medicines. On 4 March and 25 March, however, Clarke and Lamy's opinion was much less neutral: both stated that if not for the US, there would be consensus on this issue. Lamy stated that the EU « unambiguously » sided with developing countries on this issue.
Another point of interest that Clarke brought out on 4 March : access to medicine will be difficult regardless of TRIPs, since the infrastructure, etc. doesn't exist in most countries in order to make these medicines accessible to the areas (and people) who need it most. Lamy also agreed that there are many more issues other than intellectual property (IP) at play, but no progress would be made until this political issue was solved.
Perhaps these last comments suggest a shift in EU attitude on access to medicines ? It seems they are starting to state their case as to the perhaps inevitable failure to find consensus in this area at Cancun, so it will not overshadow the other aspects of the DDA ?
At the 29 January meeting, Clarke stated that the EU is not making any offers on water privatization, nor has it requested this from others. If a country has independently taken the decision to privatize their water, the EC might consider making a request. (See WDM's analysis of leaked EU offers ; it seems that the EU does makes offers to at least 7 LDCs in this area .)
On March 25, Lamy repeated the much-loved "proof will be in the pudding" phrase when referring to the EU offers to be presented at Geneva. He also reiterated that this was the beginning and not the end of negotiations in GATS .
Despite half-hearted optimism on behalf of Clarke and Lamy, the outlook was not good on this deadlocked issue at both meetings where it was discussed: On 4 March, Clarke stated that Harbison's agriculture proposal was roundly condemned by almost all of the around 20 delegations invited to participate. Ministers could not agree on the Harbison proposal as even a basis for future agriculture negotiations.
On 25 March, Lamy acknowledged that the impression seems to be that we are heading for a "train wreck" in this area. DG Trade does not believe that this is true. Harbison's second proposal is not a good paper: putting 90% of negotiations out now is not helpful. Yet, positions are becoming clearer on all accounts as opposition is voiced. The perception is that this issue is a "two-corner game": trade liberalisation vs. trade protection. That is not true. This is a four-corner game; we need to find the "centre of this four-cornered square" in order to come to a consensus on agriculture.
That said, Lamy also acknowledged that the 31 March deadline on modalities would most likely be missed. (ICDA note : When this goes to print, that deadline will have passed, unmet). By making the agriculture problem a 'four-corner' issue, Lamy seems to be dispersing the blame for the deadlock in this issue so that the EU alone is held directly responsible for the unmet deadline .
Clarke and Lamy said the same thing on this one : the two processes will be negotiated parallel to each other. However, while Clarke stated on 4 March that there was no instrinsic link between the two processes, Lamy admitted he would have preferred to negotiate the Doha round with the CAP already in place. Australia and the US have argued that nothing will move forward in agriculture at the WTO without CAP reform. This, according to Lamy, puts pressure on CAP reform - a comment that suggests there is a link between the two processes.
NON-ARICULTURE MARKET ACCESS (Animal welfare, labelling)
At the 4 March meeting, Clarke stated that the EC believes that non-trade concerns are vital for the agriculture proposal - they make up the « fourth pillar » of agriculture. Lamy stated on 25 March that animal welfare was a "typical green box issue"; labelling was more complicated, as it is seen as protectionist by many developing countries. As Lamy said, "they are right." This issue, as well as the technical barriers to trade (TBT) agreement, is highly political, and the EU will have to proceed "with caution."
Both Clarke and Lamy are in agreement here. On 29 January, Clarke said there was a qualitative SIA currently in the middle of its first phase of assessments on certain services, competition policy, some industrial tariffs and agricultural products. Results should be ready by the summer (July), in order to be taken into account before Cancun. There is also a new SIA on the quantitative aspects of liberalisation (i.e. tariff cuts), which will be ready by Cancun. These SIAs will be used to assess negotiating positions. Lamy congratulated civil society on their work in this area, and said the SIA process should be moved forward.
An interesting question of rhetoric in the first two meetings with DG Trade... While these Mini-Ministerials are not supposed to be decision-making bodies, much of the language John Clarke used on Sydney (at the 29 Jan meeting) and on Tokyo (at the 4 March meeting) suggests that agreements (or agreements to disagree) abounded at both Sydney and Tokyo.
To begin, at the 29 January meeting, Clarke proclaimed that the meeting "clarified" all issues on the agenda, except for the matter of the scope of disease covered under TRIPs. At a previous meeting between NGOs and the Director General of the WTO, Supachai Panikpatchdi, however, the DG stated that "there were no concrete decisions taken" at the Sydney Mini-Ministerial . There is a very fine line between clarifying issues and taking decisions on those issues - especially when dealing with such hot topics as agriculture and TRIPs. And if clarification was the name of the game at Sydney, shouldn't developing countries - most of which were not invited to participate - be allowed to play? After all, if WTO proponents claim Doha as the "development" round, the very countries that are developing should know what is going on.
At the 4 March meeting with DG Trade, John Clarke is quoted as using such words as « consensus », « all agreed », and « discarded » when refering to the 14-15 February Tokyo Mini-Ministerial : all of which tend to suggest that agreements and disagreements were formulated here that will shape further DDA negotiations. Again, if this is not decision-making, what is ?
On 25 March, reference to Tokyo was notably absent - perhaps this is because no real progress came out of that meeting (despite Clarke's comments on 4 March) - and the state of deadlock in Doha negotiations was made evident by Lamy's general comments on each issue. It is, however, unfortunate that we couldn't get his views on Tokyo. (A quick check of the DG Trade web site suggests that no press release was published by the EU after Tokyo. Even more notably, Lamy made no public comments on the meeting. Is there a reason for this ? (If you do find comments by Lamy on this meeting, please send them to ICDA, to be included in this report.))
WHERE ARE WE NOW ?
The 29 January meeting seemed to be little more than a summary of EU actions thus far. At that time, Clarke seemed relatively calm that all negotiations would begin after Cancun. The meeting was indeed just a briefing ; the most interesting remark made by Clarke was that the WTO was inherently pro-development. But we had already heard that before.
The results from the 4 March meeting, which make particular reference to Tokyo, were much more provocative. It was clear that there was a resounding lack of consensus on the five issues addressed at Tokyo (see minutes from this meeting for more info). From an outside perspective, it appeared that the EU's commitment to sticking with deadlines seemed less and less likely. Yet, despite this decidedly negative overall reflection on Tokyo, Clarke and his colleagues seemed content with the « progress » made at the mini-ministerial (!). This was Clarke's general impression on 4 March, and a colleague of Clarke (Rupert Schlegelmilch ?) confirmed this by bringing up Supachai's recent « gloom and doom » outlook on the state of the DDA. Schlegelmilch (?) says we should take this outlook with a grain of salt, as negotiations are still pretty much on track. Problems with agriculture negotiations are serving as a reality check, but in general all is well.
At the 25 March meeting this overall outlook seems to change. Lamy expressed several times that we were "not there yet" on a number of issues. The reason for this was placed on the fact that the WTO is not a "nicely accumulating process"; the number of countries and number of issues involved make negotiations very complicated. This statement by Lamy is very different from Clarke's perception of the progress gained thus far since Doha. Is the Commission setting the stage for a possible Cancun failure? As Lamy said at the meeting, the big test of Cancun would be, 'will we finish this round by the end of 2004?' This is an about-face for DG Trade in terms of their predictions for Doha negotiations.
CIVIL SOCIETY INVOLVEMENT:
Lamy made some interesting comments at the 25 March meeting about his disappointment in the civil society dialogue process after Doha. This was not the first time that comments like this were made by DG Trade. On 29 January, John Clarke questioned the lack on interest in the DDA on the part of environmental NGOs - a comment that sparked an interesting exchange between Clarke and the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development (see minutes from that meeting).
While civil society participation was not brought up at the 4 March meeting, Lamy devoted a significant portion of his update on March 25 to the lack of involvement by civil society, business and trade unions since the Doha Ministerial. This is interesting, considering that many aspects of the Doha round are not going well. As shown above, many issues are deadlocked, deadlines will surely be missed and the completion of the Doha round in general has been put into doubt. Within that context, Lamy's statement that he finds the state of civil society participation « worrying » could reflect possible concerns about the negotiation process in general.
He was also quite strong about civil society's responsibility to persuade other actors (beyond the EU) on trade issues. With Oxfam, he specifically asked that they save some of their "ammo" and "cannons" to use on others.
And, finally, EU as the MAN IN THE MIDDLE:
Another resounding theme from the meetings - which is something that has been seen referred to in other articles and conferences - is the EU's (and particularly Clarke's) satisfaction that the EU is in the "middle" on several issues. They are working to find compromises seemingly between the wrecklessly insolent United States and the haplessly excluded developing world. While Clarke refered to this specifically at the 29 January meeting, both he and Lamy have always been quite clear about the EU's role as 'mediator' amongst all the other squabbling parties.
It is tempting to suggest that such moderation on the part of the EU could be construed as sitting on the fence. Such a legacy is not ideal for this group of countries, especially bearing in mind that « on the fence » has been defined as "that of a man sitting on a fence, with clean boots, watching carefully which way he may leap to keep out of the mud… "