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Implementation issues, S&D Treatment get short shrift

Geneva, 25 Aug (Chakravarthi Raghavan) - The issues of implementation, pushed by developing countries and made a part of the Single Undertaking at Doha, have been virtually demoted in the revised draft ministerial text for Cancun put forward by the Chairman of the General Council, Amb.Carlos Perez del Castillo, while another priority issue of Special and Differential Treatment seems destined for a never-never-land at the WTO.

In the Doha Ministerial Declaration (DMD), in the work programme, the Implementation-Related Issues and Concerns, was dealt with first under para 12 of the DMD, making them an integral part of the Doha work programme and its single undertaking. Those implementation issues with a specific negotiating mandate were to be addressed under the particular mandate, and others addressed as a matter of priority by relevant WTO bodies.

In the nearly two years of the talks since Doha, this has been continuously downgraded and sidelined, sought to be treated as something that may require a case-by-case, country-by-country treatment in terms of extending the implementation period or one for technical assistance to implement.

The implementation issue first came up at the Singapore Ministerial Conference (1996), where it was first sought to be laughed out (and treated as disposed off by ministers’ statements, to virtually empty halls, in the plenary), but this attempt failed in face of criticism from developing country governments and civil society groups.

The developing countries took it up again for the Geneva Ministerial Conference in 1998, where the US again tried to dismiss it, with the remark “we implement our commitments, you implement yours.” But this failed. At that Conference, developing countries put the implementation issues in three categories: non-realisation of anticipated benefits (as in textiles and agriculture), imbalances and asymmetries to be corrected (TRIPS, subsidies etc) and the non-operational and non-binding provisions (to be made operational).

In the preparations for the Geneva Ministerial, the developing countries said implementation should be a priority issue, with Pakistan making the demand for a collective evaluation of each agreement and for assessment of how far the objectives of each agreement had been achieved.

As a result, that Ministerial Declaration, paragraph 8, said that the Members would evaluate each agreement.... for consequential impact etc. The future work programme on implementation was also set out. With the US and the EC keen at that time to start talks on services, and on agriculture, implementation question became a bargaining point of sorts.

In the WTO bodies, the US accused India and others of trying to wreck the UR agreements, but India insisted that there were justif8ied grievances, and if they could not be addressed, the only message to developing countries was that they should undertake no more commitments at the WTO, since they could never change any commitment or agreement, however flawed.

To put off the developing countires, the US and EC demanded specific proposals and precise formulations, which the developing countries did all this in the preparatory process for the 3rd Ministerial that was to be held at Seattle.

These proposals were formulated, and put into the draft ministerial text by the then chairman of the General Council Amb. Ali Mchumo of Tanzania.

But in the way of the WTO, the draft text that Mchumo finalised and handed over to the secretariat for processing and issue underwent a metamorphosis, which trade diplomats from the developing world said, was a case of the secretariat being sharply pulled up and pressured by the US, and resulting in the Mchumo text that was issued having nothing on the implementation issues.

After protests, the subject was put back into the Seattle draft, but without any detailed proposals, and merely dealt with as a square bracket, with asteriks: [****].

By Seattle, there was a political momentum behind the implementation issues and their importance for developing countries. And when Seattle ended in a fiasco, and the issue came back to Geneva, the implementation issues became an important one and identified by the General Council decision of 3 May 2000 as an important part of the ‘confidence building exercise’.

A process was set up in the General Council, and developing countries kept up the pressure. In 2001, with Stuart Harbinson in the General Council chair, the issue again came up in a big way, and after consultations, he brought up as ‘decisions’ some of the implementation issues.

But the US and the EC would not agree, but talked in terms of a promise to deal with it at Doha.

At Doha, and in the runup to it, the developing countries kept up the pressure, and insisted that the implementation issues were the legacy of the past commitments, that the developing countries had paid a price in the form of obligations like TRIPS, but have got nothing in return though promised, and they were not going to pay again for considering the implementation issues and correcting the asymmetries.

For Doha, a draft Ministerial decision, covering some of the issues, was prepared and put forward by the DG and the GC Chair on their own authority.

At Doha, and in the runup, with some of the developing countries having already agreed to the US-EC demands for negotiations on industrial tariffs and services etc, the US and the EC tried to manipulate the process so that the implementation issues would “fall off the table.”

However, with India and a few others holding out, the issues not covered by the implementation decisions, were ultimately made a part of the single undertaking to be addressed under specific negotiating mandates or as part of the Doha work programme. The issues were also brought under the Trade Negotiations Committee (which was running the Doha work programme, as a single undertaking).

However, the issues continued to be side-lined, with from time to time, the WTO DG saying he would hold special consultations, and the developing countries like India calling for dedicated TNC meetings, while the majors sought to push the issues to the WTO bodies for technical work.

Now, in the draft for Cancun, the implementation issues have been brought up as para 12 - after agriculture, NAMA, Services, Rules, TRIPS, Environment, DSU and S&D treatment (where too there is an attempt to fool the developing countries, particularly the Africans).

The Implementation para (para 12) of the revised draft now says:

“We note that, while some progress has been made under the mandates we gave at Doha concerning implementation-related issues and concerns, a number of the issues and concerns raised in this context remain outstanding. We reaffirm the mandates we gave in paragraph 12 of our Doha Ministerial Declaration and our Decision on Implementation-Related Issues and Concerns, and we renew our determination to find appropriate solutions to these issues. We instruct the Trade Negotiations Committee, negotiating bodies and other WTO bodies concerned to redouble their efforts to find appropriate solutions as a priority, and we request the Director-General to continue the consultations he has undertaken on certain issues, including issues related to the extension of the protection of geographical indications provided for in Article 23 of the TRIPS Agreement to products other than wines and spirits. The General Council shall review progress and take any appropriate action no later than [...].”

With some more of the empty rhetoric of Ministers renewing the determination to tackle these issues, and once again asking the DG to continue his consultations, the revised draft ends up by quietly putting the issue into the General Council, where it could be an item for more consultations by the General Council chair in perpetuity.

The S&D treatment issue (with Supachai himself promoting ‘graduation’ and others questioning any other concept for S&DT - except a case-by-case approach for longer periods and or extensions) - the idea of an operational framework mandated for negotiations in Special Sessions of the Committee on Trade and Development, repeatedly missed the deadlines with the majors raising questions on mandate. The CTD referred the issues to the General and Ministerial Conference for clearer mandate. But S&DT has now got short shrift.

A few decisions (mostly of no consequence) were formulated by the General Council chair for adoption, but Africans insisted on seeing the entire package and a time-line set for dealing with it, before they would agree.

But S&DT para, merely puts it on a framework of further work in various WTO bodies and the General Council, and a report back to the next WTO Ministerial Session.

The para 11 says: “We reaffirm that provisions for special and differential treatment are an integral part of WTO Agreements. We recall our decision in Doha to review special and differential treatment provisions with a view to strengthening and making them more precise, effective and operational. We note the progress that has been made towards meeting these objectives and adopt the decisions in Annex C to this document. We instruct the General Council to continue to monitor closely work on the proposals referred to negotiating groups and other WTO bodies, and direct these bodies to report to the General Council

no later than [...]. We instruct the Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session to pursue expeditiously, within the parameters of the Doha mandate, the work on remaining agreement-specific proposals and other outstanding issues referred to in TN/CTD/7 and report with recommendations, as appropriate, to the General Council by [...]. The General Council shall submit a report on all these issues to our next Session.” – SUNS5404

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