Transcript of Press Tele-conference call with Acting U.S. Trade Representative Peter F. Allgeier Following the Informal Meeting of Trade Ministers in Mombasa, Kenya
Richard Mills: Hello? Ambassador Allgeier? This is Richard Mills. We’ve got everyone on the phone, we’ve
gone over the ground rules and this will be an on the record discussion and that
your time is limited. So, why don’t you take it away?
Acting United States Trade Representative
Allgeier: We're in the MombasaAirport.
So there's maybe a little bit of noise in the background, ok?
Anyway, I guess
everybody has seen the statement that we put out. I won’t repeat that. [crosstalk]. We are kind of moving
around here. I think it was a very good meeting. Basically the objective of course was to
see if we can some convergence among the nations that were at the meeting as to
the next steps we should be taking in each of the major areas of
On agriculture, the
emphasis was on solving this problem of how to convert specific and complex
duties into ad valorem equivalents so that people could actually do a comparison
and decide where each product belong in the various part of the agriculture
market access formula. The U.S. actually served as a kind of a broker
between the two sides on this. And
at this point there is an agreement, at least among the countries at the
meeting, on how to proceed.
Now, obviously this
kind informal ministerial can’t make decisions for the entire membership, but
with thirty-some countries represented at this meeting, if everybody goes in and
approaches it the same way, I think there’s a very good chance that things will
So the idea – the
objective – is that a there will be an agreement on the methodology for doing
this conversion at the next agriculture negotiations meeting, which is in
mid-March and then by the April meeting people will actually put down their data
so that people can start to prepare their tariff schedules on the ad valorem
equivalent basis. But there has
been no decision as to what happens at the end of the negotiation - whether
those tariffs get converted back to specific or complex, or whether they go as
ad valorem. And of course we were not going to make that kind of commitment at
this phase and we don’t have to.
On non agricultural
market access there’s a lot of discussion about the formula. And basically, of course, the Unites
States had earlier put forward the concept of a “Swiss” formula with a dual
coefficient. A number of countries
said they liked that idea. A number of countries came forward with some
variations on that. The EC had a
variation that they took forward without any great details – it’s basically kind
of a credit version of the dual coefficient.
Mexico, on behalf of
Mexico, Chile and Columbia, put together a different kind of credit
approach and the Indians and the Brazilians would likely come up with
convergence was at the next negotiations meeting on market access the center
piece of that meeting would be to explore the various concepts of the
formula. It’s a formula that
combines ambition and flexibility for developing countries. And then to try to narrow down the
options in the formula. Even then,
of course, we will continue to work on both sectoral initiatives and non- tariff
In services, there’s
a very clear affirmation that services is on a par with non-agriculture market
access and the agriculture market access has got to be a critical part of the
final package. And there were a number of discussions about how raise the level
of ambitions in services.
The host, Minister
Kenya, made it clear that there needs to be a
critical mass of services offers, not just in relation to countries but also in
terms of coverage in sectors. There
was some discussion of the rules aspect of services with the emphasis on
domestic regulation and transparency.
And so I think that, you know, the standing of services in the
negotiations were very very clearly affirmed.
people really, there was no dissent in the sense that people felt it was moving
along well. So, people agreed that
we would try to get all our various proposals on the table by the time of the
There was discussion
about what the overall package should look like in July and I think it’s well
understood that if we stick with each of the areas -- obviously a lot of
discussion about development. There was discussion about cotton. It followed a predictable line.
Basically the cotton countries describing their situation and urging people to
respond with urgency. We explained
that the best way to deal with this, of course, is in the context of
And so, I’m trying
to think what else. There was a
discussion of rules and obviously expected, not surprised, that other countries
emphasized that they needed to work on that.
We pointed out the
fish subsidies were part of the rules discussions that should go forward. But I think the main thing was the key
three areas of market access in goods, the agricultural pillars and services.
The countries that
were at that meeting will go back and, I think, really work on very concrete
issues in the next set of negotiations.
Ministers are likely to get back together again at the time of the OECD
in mid-May and we’ll check on the progress and make further decisions then.
So there’s a very good
atmosphere. People really want to move the Round forward and all in all it was
very good meeting. So, sorry to go
a little bit long…
Mr. Mills: We can go to questions. For folks who joined us late, just a
reminder that this call is on the record by Acting USTR Peter Allgeier. Anyone
have any questions?
Reporter: Ian Swanson, Inside US Trade. Ambassador
Allgeier, if I could ask you a question about the first thing you mentioned, the
converting of tariffs. Is this essentially an agreement that means the EU is
giving up its demands, that there be some kind of consideration that the
specific tariff would be still be able to bind, that they would
Both sides gave up imposing pre-conditions on exchanging the data. The EU wanted a pre-condition that they
would have the right to convert these back to a specific complex duty and there
were others who wanted to pin down that that wouldn’t be possible. And both
sides agreed that that’s really an issue for later on in the negotiations. The
most important thing is to get the data on the table so people can really start
the negotiations on market access and agriculture. Of course that’s important to
us and so we serve as kind of a bridging role on that.
Reporter: And is there still work to do on agreeing on
the methodology or is that essentially agreed upon?
Amb. Allgeier: I think there’s a little bit, sort of odds
and ends, but not the basic substance of it. Anyone else?
Reporter: Peter Shinn, National Association of Farm
Broadcasters. I was wondering if
the WTO Appellate ruling came up in yesterday’s meeting and what impact, if any,
it had or may have on future talks at the Doha Round?
Amb. Allgeier: Well it came up, actually, this morning
because by the time it came out last night – we’re a couple of hours ahead of
Geneva – so it came up this morning. Not as much as
I would have thought, frankly. And
we made it clear, our negotiating position remains the same. The opposition on
domestic support has been clear from the beginning that there needs to be a
harmonizing cut in domestic support.And nothing that’s happened in the last twenty four hours changes that.
Ambassador, Scott Miller, Wall Street Journal. Just a quick question on
services, it seems like they might be lagging behind the others. Today we were
talking about an affirmation of their importance, but very light on concrete
progress, we’re still lacking a lot of offers. The EU today at their
briefing was saying they were looking ways
to make services into something that can help developing countries. I guess
that’s a two part question. Are you worried about services falling behind and is
there some discussion about their role in promoting
Well, number one, we would like to see the pace picked up on services and
the level of ambition. And so I
think that was clearly understood today, not just because of things that we
said, but other countries as well.
On the question of
good for development, I mean, we certainly made that point that the services are
really an essential part of any country’s development plan. If you look at the
contribution of services such as economic growth, the jobs, the competitiveness,
it’s very very clear. And actually,
we suggested, couldn’t we all agree on a very kind of pro-development core
sectors that everybody would make commitment on to some degree? Things like
telecom and financial services, distribution services, perhaps construction and
so forth. So, we and others talked
a lot about the development benefits from services
Reporter: Ambassador Allgeier, this isJerry Hagstrom, from Congress
Daily. On the cotton question, do
you anticipate – when you say you
want harmonizing support is that before or after the settlement of the cotton
Harmonizing cuts in support.
These are cuts by those such as the European Union, who have a much
higher level of domestic support that they’re allowed in the
Reporter: But would you comply with the WTO appellate
body decision before entering these negotiations or would they be part of – or
would the resolution to the cotton case be part of the
Well, our view is that if you’re looking for a really affirmative
solution to the problem, the best way is to do it in a negotiation. And obviously, we have to analyze what
the impact of the case is, but we think that the best way is to complete this
round in the time frame we’re talking about, by the end of 2006, with these
harmonizing cuts in domestic support.
I think I can do one
more and then …
Reporter: Matt Kaye, Berns Bureau.Do you think it’s possible for you to get political support on the
Hill for any Doha deal that does not address the developing
country issues with, on the cotton case?
Well, I think that, obviously, our Congress, I think rightly, that if
we’re going to cut our domestic support that those who have, you know, higher
domestic supports need to be doing the same. And I’m confident that we can
negotiate that kind of a deal in the time frame that we’re talking
Thank you all very much for joining us. Again, this call was on the record by
USTR Ambassador Peter Allgeier.
I’m sorry that we
had to cut it a bit short, but as we indicated at the front end of the call,
he’s at the airport about to get on a plane. If anyone has any questions, please call
the press office directly at 395-3230.
And again for broadcasters, if you need anything with better sound
quality give us a call as well.