Saturday, Sep 13, 2003
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By C. Rammanohar Reddy
At a press conference here on the second day of the five-day meeting, Rafidah Aziz, Malaysia's Minister for International Trade and Industry, said on behalf of the group that there was no "explicit consensus" among all the members of the WTO in favour of talks on the modalities of new agreements on the Singapore issues. The Cancun meeting is to take a decision either way on the launch of formal negotiations on the four Singapore issues.
"Explicit consensus" is the term inserted in the 2001 Doha ministerial declaration of the WTO at the insistence of Murasoli Maran, the then Minister of Commerce and Industry, as a way of ensuring that talks on new treaties would not begin unless each and every country approved of the proposal."Explicit consensus means that even if one country says `no' that is it," said Ms. Aziz.
At the briefing yesterday on the Singapore issues, where Arun Jaitley, Minister for Commerce and Industry, was also present, Ms. Aziz said that the developing countries were opposed to negotiations on the Singapore issues because they were not ready to take on new WTO obligations in areas where all the implications of complex issues were not yet fully understood.
With the coalition on agriculture now joined by the developing country alliance on the Singapore issues, and both the European Union and the United States on the other side not changing their perspective, there is a long distance to travel if the WTO conference is not to collapse by the weekend.
The new developing country alliance is not as large, diverse or powerful as the group of 21 countries on agriculture. Missing from the new coalition are countries such as Brazil and South Africa, both of whom favour WTO negotiations on investment rules.
The alliance does, however, signify a new determination by the developing countries to tailor alliances according to specific issues.
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