Senior Officials Meeting – 2nd September 2009

Preparatory to the Ministerial meeting being hosted by India on 3-4 September, a meeting of senior officials from invited WTO member countries was held on 2 September 2009. The meeting was chaired by India’s Commerce Secretary.

The objective of the meeting was to discuss the contours and content of the Ministerial engagement and to decide on issues to be presented to Ministers for receiving their guidance.

As the objective of the Delhi Ministerial meeting is to develop convergence among major groups and members on issues relating to resumption and intensification of the Doha Round negotiations, the discussion was confined to process-related issues. The intention was to gauge whether a broad-based consensus could be arrived at on how Ministers would like to see the process of negotiation fast-tracked.

A discussion paper circulated by India about ten days before the meeting on some of these process-related issues formed the basis of discussion.  On the basis of this paper, participants discussed the issue of timelines for completing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA and for revised offers in Services; the sequence in which all areas being negotiated under the Doha Round are to be completed; the need to ensure commensurate progress in other areas, such as Rules, TRIPS, Trade and Environment and the evolution of a balanced outcome within an agreed timeframe; the modalities for intensification of work in negotiating groups and for official level meetings of WTO members in order to meet the 2010 timeline set by the global leadership. It is noteworthy that the Doha Round is under negotiation since 2001 and the negotiation paused in July 2008 on some differences between developed and developing countries.

In light of the importance and integrity of the multilateral process as a tried and tested process, participants also discussed the issue of the extent to which other forms of engagement - such as bilateral or plurilateral discussion - could serve to hasten the negotiating process without compromising on its inclusiveness and also how the multilateral process could subsume the understanding developed through bilateral processes.

The development mandate, which is the bedrock of the Doha Round was emphasised and it was stated that focus had to be maintained on development concerns in developing economies. In addition the special concerns relating to LDCs were also discussed.