GENEVA — The proposal to further liberalize global trade by dropping tariffs on industrial goods met with little support, with negotiators at the World Trade Organization failing to meet a self-imposed deadline to agree on a package of terms that would govern the phaseout of tariffs, as well as the elimination of other trade barriers, senior trade diplomats said.
Saturday had been set as a deadline for developing a framework for discussing the issue.
The Swiss chairman of industrial market-access negotiations, Ambassador Pierre-Louis Girard, told reporters that, in a recent WTO discussion on the matter, more than 50 countries took the floor and expressed “divergent views” on the issue.
Girard, who in mid-May circulated a draft proposal of how tariffs could be lowered, said he did not intend to prepare a revised draft for the group’s next meeting in July. His draft called for the elimination of all duties in seven sectors, including textiles, clothing, footwear and leather goods.
Illustrating the depths of disagreement on the matter, Girard?said some diplomats considered his draft framework “too ambitious,” while others thought “it was not ambitious enough.”
Supachai Panitchpakdi, WTO director general, expressed disappointment that governments had not been able to meet the Saturday timetable.
Nevertheless, he contended “good progress” had been made and stressed, “we should not be downcast…agreeing on the modalities is perhaps the most difficult part of the negotiations.”
Nancy Adams, the lead U.S. negotiator for market access in goods, told delegates the structure of the draft formula for tariff cuts was “seriously flawed.” Adams’ comments were made in a written statement distributed during the closed-door committee meeting. The comments were not distributed to the press, but WWD obtained them through sources.
According to the statement, Adams also said the draft would not achieve genuine global market access for north-north trade, north-south trade and south-south trade.”
Similarly, a Japanese statement said the draft formula became counterproductive “by not sufficiently addressing issues of higher tariffs in developing countries.”
The EU’s lead negotiator, Herve Jouanjean, said Brussels was pleased that the proposal called for an end in tariffs on textiles, clothing and footwear and that the proposal called for all WTO members to drop tariffs.“We attach great importance to making progress on this initiative,” he said.
However, India and other major developing countries stressed that the sectoral tariff elimination should be voluntary and kept to a minimum.
India’s statement claimed that any call for all nations to drop tariffs in specific areas “is tilted against developing countries.”
In a similar vein, Brazil’s statement argued that tariff elimination on a range of nonagricultural products would “lead to greater reductions in tariff commitments from developing countries” than from developed nations.
Brazil also fears the proposal could undermine the principle of less-than-full reciprocity in tariff reduction for developing countries, which was agreed on during the Doha round of talks.
But the U.S.’s Adams said in the statement obtained by WWD that “even some of the poorest members are globally competitive in some of these sectors, and thus believe where they are competitive, they should also contribute,” sources said.
Girard said he still held out hope that the issue could be raised at the September round of talks in Cancún, Mexico, calling that event “the big date for me.” The proposed rollback of tariffs is a separate issue from the scheduled ending of quotas on textiles and apparel among WTO members on Dec. 31, 2004.
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