World Trade Organization leaders issued revised drafts for farm and non-farm trade talks over the weekend. The revised draft "modalities", written by agriculture negotiations chairperson Ambassador Crawford Falconer and non-agricultural market access chairperson Luzius Wasescha, are the outcome of the latest discussions in negotiation groups. The European Commission praised the latest drafts on Monday.
"They are solid texts," commission trade spokesman Peter Power said. "They capture the progress made in July when 80% of the issues were resolved, and make further advances in some specific areas. Both texts represent a good basis for continued discussion and an eventual ministerial meeting."
However when that meeting will occur remains very much in doubt. Although there has been speculation about a meeting in Geneva later this month, a large group of U.S. lawmakers and agricultural groups have worked against a December meeting. Trade diplomats from the world's biggest trading nations met in Geneva on Monday to decide how to go forward. They rejected any quick summit, saying deep divisions remain in areas including agricultural tariffs, cotton subsidies and tariff-free zones for chemical and other industries proposed by the U.S.
At question is the size of cuts, or the "level of ambition", in agricultural and non-agricultural tariffs and agricultural subsidies as well as the size of cuts that they desire in each area. Falconer says everything is conditional, but the changes made at this time now represent a best estimate of where there is additional good reason to believe there would prove to be consensus if everything was to come together as a modalities package.