Meeting a deadline is one thing which WTO Members seldom honour. After having successfully avoided the second possible fiasco at Hong Kong, the Members are now gearing up to face tougher and more intense negotiations in the current year. The year 2006 is
going to be crucial for this 150-member world trade rules making body as three deadlines are to be met: 30 April, 31 July and 31 December. The first important challenge is to meet the end April deadline on agreeing to the modalities on eliminating farm export subsidies, and also establishing modalities in non-agricultural market access. Based on agreed modalities, Members are required to submit comprehensive draft schedules by end July. In services too revised timelines have been agreed for requests and offers. Finally the most important end date is to conclude the Doha Round by end of 2006.
Going by past experiences and record it would be a safe bet for anybody to doubt that WTO Members would be able to meet these deadlines. If at Hong Kong there was so much divergence on agreeing only on broad contours of agreement, one can imagine the differences. These, in all likelihood, will emerge once Members start negotiations on specificities. In a true sense there has not been any “deal” at Hong Kong as negotiations on core problems have been postponed. All know that this happened to avoid a second collapse of WTO Ministerial in a row. The Financial Times columnist, Guy de Jonquieres in his analysis says, “Trade Ministers’ biggest achievement was just to keep the talks alive”.
* Secretary General, CUTS International
** Policy Analyst, CUTS International