Geneva: The chairman of agriculture negotiations at the World Trade Organization will leave Geneva towards the end of this year, New Zealand’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade said on Monday.
New Zealand’s WTO ambassador Crawford Falconer will be returning to Wellington as the ministry’s deputy secretary for trade, a ministry spokesman said by telephone from Wellington.
Falconer is credited with narrowing the gaps on a range of tricky issues on the agriculture negotiations in the WTO’s long-running Doha round which deadlocked last month on a proposal to protect poor-country farms from increased imports.
Negotiations on the round’s core areas of agriculture and industrial goods are expected to resume in September.
Diplomats said Falconer would be able to chair any resumed farm negotiations until the end of the year. “Crawford will be here for some time I understand after we resume work in September,” one senior WTO diplomat said.
In a report last week to the WTO’s 153 members on the agriculture negotiations that took place during July’s meeting, Falconer said the talks needed to resume soon to build on the compromises that emerged in the meeting. But he said the proposed special safeguard mechanism for developing-country farmers, over which the talks foundered, reflected a deep political divide that would require intensive work by senior officials to bridge.
He also flagged a number of other issues where differences remain deep, such as the level of cotton subsidies. Diplomats said Australia’s WTO ambassador, Bruce Gosper, who chairs the WTO’s General Council, would sound out members about a replacement for Falconer.
Gosper has already announced consultations to find a replacement for the chairman of the industrial goods negotiations, Canada’s WTO ambassador Don Stephenson, who is due to leave Geneva later this month. Diplomats said the process normally takes about a week.
Back in Wellington Falconer will handle one of the most important areas of New Zealand’s small open economy.
Falconer could not be reached for comment.