Developing countries for implementation at centre
by Chakravarthi Raghavan
Geneva, 27 Sept 99 -- The General Council of the World Trade Organization began Monday a week-long discussion of various elements of a possible Seattle declaration and recommendations.
At the outset of Monday's informal meeting, Chairman Amb. Ali. Mchumo presented a programme for discussion of various items or elements of a draft declaration, and the discussion focused on the schedule or programme as well as some substance about implementation.
Mchumo invited comments to focus on para 8 of the Geneva Ministerial Declaration (GMD), which he sugested did not require a collective or consensus assessment of implementation. He also suggested a paper by the secretariat setting out the points raised, that could help Ministers at Seattle to focus attention. Delegations, he said, should also focus on specific ways of immediate results at Seattle, and how implementation questions could figure in a future post-Seattle work programme.
Mchumo also reiterated his intention to produce a first draft of a Declaration early next week.
Egypt said the Mchumo paper did not mention anything about a preamble (and discussion on it). The items for focused discussion suggested by him had included along with agriculture and services, the mandated negotiations out of Marrakesh, the question of non-agricultural market access. Egypt had problems with this. Egypt could not also understand the item set for discussion on 30 Sep, namely 'Functioning of the GATT system".
India argued that it would be better to try and evolve a collective, consensus-based assessment of implementation, and would need time to consider the Chair's proposal for the secretariat preparing a paper on issues raised. India also wanted the attention of Seattle drawn to the assessments of the outcome of the Uruguay Round that had come out of the World Bank, the UNDP, UNCTAD's Trade and Development Report -- all showing that the expected benefits to developing countries had not materialised.
Later Australia claimed that the UNCTAD report had pointed to national policy inadequacies for failure. But India wanted Australia to specify where UNCTAD had said it. This was not India's impression of the report.
India also had problems with the US paper on implementatiuon issues, under which the first assessment of the implementation, by preparing an inventory, would not be available till July 2000. India also had problems with the US suggestion that these issues be remitted to WTO bodies. As regards Special and Differential Treatment in the WTO agreements, most of them were couched in non-legal and non-binding language, and the focus should be to make them binding and obligatory. The Uruguay Round agreements had not resulted in benefits to the developing countries, and this situation must be assessed and rectified.
The EU wanted implementation to be dealt with under three heads: difficulties facing developing countries because of financial, physical, manpower and other restraints; some post-Seattle mechanism to be established to deal with them; and where clarifications or changes in existing agreements were needed, the texts that would need renegotiations.
Brazil seemed willing to go along with some of the Mchumo suggestions, including a secretariat paper to enable ministers to focus on implementation at Seattle. The Seattle meeting should be more dynamic than the Geneva ministerial, Brazil added. Implementation problems could not be limited to technical assistance as some countries were suggesting.
Argentina shared India's concerns, and wanted ministers at Seattle to look at all the reports and the long list of unfulfilled commitments and promises. There were categories of issues: those relating to agreements like the TBT, SPS, Customs valuation, regional trade agreements and technical cooperation. A second category involved agreements that need changes - like anti-dumping, TRIMS and TRIPS. A third category of issues related to non-compliance like those on textiles and clothing. Argentina also called for a "truce" to be declared at Seattle - a truce against further disputes being raised and brought up.
The Dominican Republic supported this truce idea.
Singapore wanted any secretariat paper of the type proposed by Mchumo should provide a sense of the debate inside the General Council.
The US said it wanted to have further consultations with other delegations on its proposals about implementation.
Pakistan wanted a stricter adherence to the para 8 of the GMD (calling for assessment of implementation).
Hong Kong China said that procedural proposals on implementation (presumably a reference to the US one) would not meet their concerns. Mexico said it would be tabling a proposal for extending the transition period for TRIMS, while Jamaica appeared to support the Indian views.
The meeting is to resume Monday afternoon.
According to the Mchumo schedule, there is to be discussion Tuesday on agriculture, services, non-agricultural market access and issues relating to other existing agreements and mandated reviews. On Wednesday he suggested discussion on investment, competition, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation. On Thursday he listed as items for discussion the functioning of the WTO system, overall principles and structure of the negotiations, and other elements of the work programme.
On Friday there will be discussion of immediate decisions at Seattle. (SUNS4517)
The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.
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