Posted at 10:17 p.m. PST; Sunday, December 5, 1999
The Seattle Times Company

                                   What's ahead for the WTO


                                              When the World Trade Organization finished its work here, it was to have issued a
                                              declaration outlining the size and scope of future world trade talks. But because the
                                              talks here collapsed, there was no document.

                                              Draft copies of what such a document might have looked like circulated around the
                                              meeting. One of the most complete showed the WTO was ready to begin a minimal
                                              round of trade talks on the basic issues before them - agriculture, services and
                                              overall world tariffs.

                                              Here is a look at various issues and what happened:

                                              
Agriculture

                                              The issue: It's the most contentious of issues and in some way the deal breaker. The
                                              United States and a group of agricultural exporting nations known as the Cairns
                                              Group were close to a deal that would have called for gradual reductions in export
                                              subsidies leading toward their eventual elimination. The European Union, which
                                              heavily subsidies its farmers, resisted the move. No agreement was reached.

                                              What's ahead: Previously scheduled WTO talks on agriculture will begin in January,
                                              but it is now much less likely that the EU will agree to far-reaching concessions on
                                              farming.

                                              
Labor rights

                                              The issue: The U.S. made labor rights one of its objectives. The U.S. had proposed
                                              a working group be set up in the WTO to look at the issue. Developing nations
                                              opposed the idea, seeing it as a form of rich-country protectionism. When President
                                              Clinton said the working group should develop labor standards enforceable by trade
                                              sanctions, developing nations were incensed.

                                              What's ahead: Labor rights is off the table with no plans to bring it up again.

                                              
Electronic commerce

                                              The issue: It's fairly simple - an extension of a moratorium on charging duties on
                                              Internet sales and software. There was little opposition to the idea and draft
                                              statements supported an extension.

                                              What's ahead: The existing moratorium is in effect until February.

                                              
Reforming the WTO

                                              The issue: This was known as transparency in the talks. The idea was to make the
                                              WTO more open, more accountable to the public, especially in its key dispute
                                              resolution process. This was another goal of the Clinton administration. Many
                                              countries opposed it, saying the WTO was a government-to-government
                                              organization, precluding outside influence.

                                              What's ahead: An existing study group will continue to look at the issue. Draft
                                              declarations called on individual countries to do more about explaining the role of
                                              the WTO and bringing outside interests into the process.

                            Environment

                                              The issue: Environmental groups pushed for the WTO to open up several
                                              agreements and specifically link trade with environmental concerns. Most WTO
                                              members said existing WTO protections were adequate.

                                              What's ahead: More debate and more pressure from environmental groups are
                                              coming. New measures failed to make any draft declarations.

                                            
  Tariffs

                                              The issue: About six categories of industrial products, including timber, paper and
                                              other forest products, were to be in a group where existing tariffs, or taxes on
                                              imports, would be lowered. It was opposed by environmentalists.

                                              What's ahead: No action is expected.

                                              
Business

                                              The issue: The failure of the talks will disappoint many U.S. companies.
                                              Agricultural companies had counted on tariff reductions and subsidies to give a big
                                              lift to exports. Electronic-commerce companies had high hopes that the WTO would
                                              extend a moratorium on taxation of Internet transactions.

                                              What's ahead: Either of those areas could be negotiated separately in the future, but
                                              the prospect of progress is uncertain.



                                              Copyright 1999 The Seattle Times Company


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