Africa, India presentations on implementation

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Quatre Bornes, Mauritius 1 Nov 2000 -- The outcome of consultations by the General Council Chairman on implementation issues intended for immediate action have been ‘relatively scant’, according to the African group of countries at the WTO, while India said, at best, the convergence achieved so far is over modality for resolving a small number of issues.

In a statement presented at the 18-19 October special session of the General Council, Mauritius described the chairman’s statement about the outcome of consultations on issues in para 20 of the Mchumo text, with a few omissions, as broadly reflecting the discussions and consultations so far. African members viewed it as essentially a good beginning to deal with the acute problems of implementation, and the results achieved were “relatively scant” in relation to the large number of issues at stake.

The least, and the most expeditious thing to be done was to bring “even these scant achievements to closure”, if concrete meaning was to be given to the “doables”. More work was needed on these results, as some of them had still to go through examination and a further process in subsidiary bodies, a couple of them to be taken up by the director-general in consultations with other international organizations, and quite a few others in consultations by the General Council chair with members.

As for possible and potential sequencing in dealing with para 21 and para 22 issues, whatever the arguments advanced in the discussions, “Members have fundamentally tried to reflect on why [it is] consider[ed] so important that we address the implementation issues whether they be addressed separately, concurrently or consecutively.”

As for the dichotomy struck in the discussions between paras 21 and 22, and as to which of these had precedence over the other, or if both could be taken up in parallel, “we believe that the hard core of Members’ reflections remains that they are all of significance to Members because of the essence of issues considered therein... the Members themselves have taken the pain to bring them on board and hence they are issues which lie at the heart of our concerns.”

Africa’s own views on the matter, Mauritius said, is that “logically, paragraph 21 precedes 22; and, philosophically, there cannot be paragraph 22 without 21... these figures clearly indicate as to all they say in which direction work will proceed.”

In formulating para 21, Members had recognized that they are listed as issues calling for “immediate action”, and it was why the contents of this para was appropriately entitled “Immediate action.” Thus, they had not failed to spell out the urgency of the matter.

Citing in this regard from the draft Seattle Ministerial Declaration put forward by the then General Council chair, Amb. Ali Mchumo of Tanzania, Mauritius added: “Thus paragraph 21 comes by right and unequivocally as part of immediate action. The precedence it has over paragraph 22 is logical and to be more philosophical about it, we cannot but underscore its linkage with para 22 which is placed under a chapeau styled ‘Implementation Review Mechanism’... in formulating this paragraph we had clear ideas in our mind.”

It was clear that the Members created a kind of dichotomy, and whether the term priority or precedence was used, it did not damage the process nor the essence of the paragraphs. The Members have to continue to work “in the spirit of what we ourselves formulated and how we presented them.”

“We have more to gain in advancing the process by reaching understanding in reaffirming our own action in a consistent manner. Sequencing should be more of a unifying factor than a divisive one. The sequencing was not really in terms of paragraphs or issues. Both paragraphs confirm that generic issues were mentioned in both. The sequencing should hence be in terms of ‘the hierarchy of immediacy of results and not hierarchy of issues’.”

There should be no illusion about all they had said on implementation issues and Africa had consistently underscored the need for results and need for results-oriented actions.

Hence, while Africa had no objection to work on para 22 being taken up in an interactive manner, they would like to underscore:

        the ‘immediacy’ of results as agreed upon should be respected in order to contribute to the efforts at confidence-building;

        time taken in the interactive process to undertake work on para 22 should not unduly harm progress of work for achieving ‘immediacy ends’ under para 21 and this should be seen on its own merit and urgency;

        the first outcome of the chair’s consultations seems to be relatively not significant, but this should be recognized as a crucial stepping stone towards building the kind of momentum needed to satisfy ourselves on implementation issues;

        with a minor omission here and there, the chair’s report was a faithful account of consultations and discussions, and whatever had been achieved so far was a collective gain.

In its presentation, India thanked the chair, the WTO director-general and the secretariat, and the delegations, for their enormous efforts, but could not but express India’s “disappointment at lack of substantial progress in meaningfully resolving the implementation issues and concerns raised by a large number of developing countries.”

In presenting what it called a quantitative and qualitative assessment, India said that para 21 contained 54 tirets or proposals made for consideration and resolution. These proposals were made more than two years ago. From the progress report to the General Council now, it was clear that the Chair has had intensive consultations on 20 out of the 54 tirets. This meant that intensive consultations were yet to be held on as many as 34 tirets. Regarding 20 tirets in respect if which the Chair has held intensive consultations, it was clear that 12 tirets were being sent to the subordinate bodies for further consideration. In respect of six tirets, the Chair has indicated it is to hold further consultations since there was still divergence among delegations. In respect of the remaining 2 tirets, the director-general would be holding consultations with the relevant international organisations.

“All this means is that even in respect of 20 tirets which are the subject matter of your intensive consultations, we are far from resolving the problem and the convergence achieved so far mostly relates only to the modality of dealing with these tirets further. It is also clear that proposals relating to important agreements like Textiles and Clothing, Anti-dumping etc. have not yet been taken up for intensive consultation by the Chair.” India was pointing this out only to highlight the factual situation and it had no intention of criticising anybody for this state of affairs.

Even in respect of the 20 tirets covered by the Chair’s progress report, it was based on its own responsibility and was not a negotiated report. “This implies that even the convergence achieved in respect of the 20 tirets with regard to the procedure for taking the respective subject forward, we are not taking a consensus-based decision.” India was stating this only to point out the factual situation. India was conscious that the report was morally binding on all the Members, if not legally.

“Therefore, from a qualitative point of view also, the progress which we have achieved so far is far from satisfactory.”

India submitted in this connection, that in respect of tiret (1) under the Customs Valuation Agreement, there was no convergence as yet regarding the manner of proceeding forward. While India sometime back had expressed reservation to the Chair’s idea that this tiret should be referred to the customs valuation committee, as an indication of its own flexibility, India could agree to this matter being referred to the customs valuation committee, which was due to meet on 7 November, in order to get an early solution to the proposal. Moreover, the proposal contained in tiret (1) has some linkage to the proposals contained in tirets (2) and (3) also.

However, while agreeing to tiret (1) being referred to the customs valuation committee, India would request the Chair to ensure that the report of the committee was received by the General Council well in advance of the December meeting, so that an appropriate decision could be taken in the December meeting.

It was India’s legitimate expectation that at least in respect of some of the proposals contained in paragraph 21, decisions would be taken at the 18 October meeting with a view to resolving the concerns raised.

India recognised that this expectation was not going to materialise.

“We are willing to acquiesce in this situation because we are sensitive to the sensitivities of some of the major delegations about the timing of these decisions. However, it will be extremely unfair for any delegation to suggest that this session was not meant to take decisions. While introducing the draft decision on implementation related issues in the 3 May meeting of the General Council, the Chair had emphasised that the purpose of the exercise that Members will be embarking upon following this decision is to resolving the implementation issues and concerns. This was reflected in the last sentence of the 2nd bullet point of the Chair’s draft decision:

‘In addressing these issues, the General Council will assess the existing difficulties, identify ways needed to resolve them and take decisions for appropriate action.’

“At that time the Chair had given a lot of comfort to India by emphasising the fact that the purpose of the exercise was to take decisions. The General Council in its meeting held on 22 June 2000 agreed with the suggestion regarding organisation of work and indicative schedule of meetings.”

“In the third bullet of that decision it was mentioned inter alia that the second special session on October 18 and 19 will begin by acting on the results of the discussions and consultations on the issues referred to in the earlier bullets, in accordance with the decisions of 3 May. ‘Acting on the results of the discussions and consultations’ has to be read in the context of the 3 May decision and the pre-ambular portion of the ‘organisation of work’. Therefore, clearly our position is that this special session was meant to take decisions. It is unfair for any delegation to argue that we were not meant to take decisions in this session.”

India was “rather surprised and pained” about the suggestion contained in the Chairman’s statement now that the Council should move on to para 22 of the 19 October text in the meeting today.... More than 90% of the proposals contained in para 22 were made by a group of countries including India. Therefore, it was obvious that more than anybody else this group of delegations was interested in these proposals.

“We have made it clear on a number of occasions that we intend pursuing all the implementation proposals contained in para 21 and 22. But we have also made it clear that there is a hierarchy between para 21 and para 22 proposals in the sense that para 21 proposals were conceived as capable of being decided upon immediately while para 22 proposals were perceived as ones requiring a little more time for being resolved. Moreover, it is clear that para 21 proposals are relatively simple and para 22 proposals are a little more complex.”

“Therefore, we are surprised at the enthusiasm of some delegations who are not sponsors of either para 21 or para 22 proposals, to move to para 22 proposals when in-depth consultations have not been completed in respect of even half of para 21 proposals. In our view, it will not be a very productive exercise for us to make a detailed presentation about para 22 proposals when we have not taken even a single decision on para 21 proposals and we have not consulted intensively even on half of para 21 proposals. We would urge you to complete consultations on all the para 21 proposals so that the General Council may take appropriate decisions on them. Let me clearly state that we have no problem in presenting our proposals on para 22. The question is one of timing. If necessary you can convene another meeting in November to discuss para 22 proposals and in the meanwhile complete consultation on all the para 21 proposals.”

“It looks to us that some Members are wanting us to present para 22 proposals when there has been no meaningful consideration of many of the para 21 proposals, mainly with a view to take away the focus of work from para 21 proposals. This is not something we can accept. We stand by all our para 22 proposals and we want them to be taken up for consideration after all the para 21 proposals are considered and meaningful decisions have been taken.”

“We have repeatedly pointed out that according to us all the implementation proposals are ‘doables’ and you have always been kind enough to emphasise the point that there is no intention to make any proposal go off the table.”

Having expressed India’s clear view, (and India had reasons to believe that there are a number of delegations who shared this view) that para 22 proposals should be taken up for consideration only after completing the work relating to all para 21 proposals, India would like to state that it was not India’s intention to deprive any delegation of the opportunity to present para 22 proposals at the current meeting, if they so desire.

However, India would like to point out that most of the proposals in para 22 were proposals made by a group of developing countries including India and that these proposals were very much on the table. It was India’s understanding that this group of countries would like the Chairman to take up these proposals only after completing consideration of para 21 proposals.

“In order to enhance the credibility of our organisation and in order to promote confidence among developing countries, we should ensure that we make progress in an orderly way and for this purpose it is necessary to observe the proper sequence.”

India also endorsed the statement of Bulgaria on the importance of addressing the issues relating to protecting marks and goods indicating geographical origin (an issue in the TRIPS and agriculture-mandated negotiations, where the industrialized countries, particularly the US and some of its Cairns group supporters, are blocking any consideration).

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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