The Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, spent this weekend in Geneva, Switzerland, in an attempt to push forward the negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) for what he calls fairer international trade rules.
Negotiators from the more than 180 member countries of the organization were unable to achieve the progress they hoped to achieve in drafting the so-called modalities document.
They were equally unsuccessful in meeting the April 30 deadline set at the Hong Kong Ministerial Summit in December of last year.
With regards to agriculture, the issue that is presently impeding the negotiations, the modalities include definitions over the formula for tariff reductions, the coverage of lists of products considered sensitive, and the function of safeguards. The modalities should have been determined by the beginning of 2003.
In a speech published in full on the WTO website, the director-general of the organization, Pascal Lamy admitted the failure. He said that important advances were achieved but not with the necessary speed to reach an agreement on the modalities.
"From now on, the process to define the modalities will be continuous, will be carried out in Geneva, and will concentrate on the texts – and our goal should be to finish the job in weeks, not months," he affirmed.
Lamy also recalled that at the last meeting of the trade negotiations committee, on March 26, he had talked about the need for a ministerial encounter at the end of April to define the modalities for agriculture and non-industrial goods. Due to the slow pace of negotiations, however, Lamy decided not to convoke the ministers.
"I am not urging the ministers to come to Geneva this week, nor am I planning any specific meeting at the ministerial level," he declared.
He pointed out that the only meeting scheduled was the ordinary trade negotiations committee meeting set for Monday, May 1st, but that each delegation was free to decide its level of representation.
Amorim decided on Thursday, April 27, to travel to Geneva to meet with various ministers who also planned to be there, even if informally.
Tuesday, May 2, Amorim participated in a meeting of the G-20 and attended a working lunch with Lamy. Meetings with other ministers and other interlocutors are also planned.
The trip will end Wednesday, May 3, when Amorim will meet with representatives of non-governmental organizations involved in the trade sphere.