July 23, 2009
* WTO agriculture talks to move on two fronts in September
* Outstanding issues in focus
* Data and template training to make a blueprint reality
GENEVA, July 23 (Reuters) – Diplomats will pick up negotiations on a farm trade agreement in September, working on the technicalities of fleshing out a possible deal and plugging remaining gaps, the chairman of the talks said on Thursday.
New Zealand ambassador David Walker, who chairs agriculture negotiations at the World Trade Organisation, said delegations wanted to be ready to handle the mass of number-crunching that would be required if there was a breakthrough in the WTO’s long-running Doha round.
"We’re trying to frontload a little bit of the technical work,"he told reporters after a week of talks in which negotiators started to examine what data would be needed to turn a blueprint deal into binding agreements on tariffs and subsidies for 153 countries.
Asia-Pacific trade ministers meeting in Singapore this week renewed calls for a conclusion of the Doha round, launched in late 2001 to help poor countries prosper through trade.
Leaders of major rich and emerging economies said at the G8 summit earlier this month they wanted Doha completed next year.
Although trade in manufactured goods dwarfs commerce in farm produce, agreement in agriculture is crucial to a Doha deal because of its political sensitivity, especially for developing countries.
Walker said he would attend a meeting of key trade ministers in India on Sept. 3-4, which is expected to give further impetus to the Doha talks, which many leaders hope will stimulate the world economy by boosting business confidence.
"We are hearing continued expressions of political will in terms of taking the negotiations forward," he said.
On his return he will consult WTO members on outstanding issues in the agriculture text drafted in December, he said.
These include issues such as the workings of a "special safeguard mechanism" to enable subsistence farmers in poor countries to cope with a sudden flood of imports by allowing their governments to raise tariffs temporarily.
Later in September Walker will hold another technical session on putting an agreed blueprint into practice, so that all countries are ready to draw up a detailed agreement if the expressions of political will by leaders are matched by a willingness to sort out the remaining sticking points. (Reporting by Jonathan Lynn, editing by Tim Pearce)