Ministers have failed to narrow their differences on the "modalities" or template agreements that are needed to compile detailed cuts in World Trade Organization tariffs and agricultural subsidies, and members have asked Director-General Pascal Lamy to try to broker a compromise "as soon as possible". Members also shared his assessment that the negotiations are now in crisis.
The "modalities" are needed so that countries can list their new commitments to reduce tariffs on thousands of products and to cut farm subsidies. The lists will be in documents known as "schedules" that will run to several hundred pages per country and to tens of thousands of pages for the whole membership. These lists will take several months for each member to compile and in each case for other members to examine and possibly negotiate.
"I will not beat about the bush," Mr Lamy told delegates in an informal meeting that immediately preceded the formal meeting. "We are now in a crisis. We are far from the necessary convergence to be able to establish modalities in agriculture and NAMA [non-agricultural market access], despite all the hard work put in by everyone."
A formal meeting on July 1 of the Trade Negotiations Committee, which comprises the entire WTO membership, brought to an end about three days of discussions among a representative group of ministers. No progress was made in trying to narrow the gaps on formulas for reducing tariffs and subsidies, various flexibilities, and other disciplines that would be in the "modalities."
Members agreed that Lamy should consult members intensively and widely in order to establish "modalities" urgently - the term several used was to "facilitate" and act as a "catalyst."
Johanns says the big task was to agree on how to deliver on the
Schwab adds that although the
Sen. Saxby Chambliss adds that although the negotiations broke off without any progress, he remains hopeful and optimistic that the talks can continue towards a successful conclusion. "While we want to make sure we do everything possible to try to achieve an agreement, the EU and the G-20 must come forward with meaningful offers rather than political posturing," he states.