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RAPID COMMENT ON REVISED DOHA MINISTERIAL DECLARATION
28 October 2001

Martin Khor, Third World Network

The revised and presumably final draft of the Ministerial Declaration came out at 1130pm on Sat 27 Oct Geneva time.

The revised draft is worse than the first.

Paras 20 to 23 are on the new "Singapore issues."   The draft commits Ministers to negotiate new agreements on all the issues, ie investment, competition, transparency in govt procurement and trade facilitation.

In the first draft there was a choice or option given for investment and competition, between either starting negotiations or continuing the study process in the working groups.  This option is now removed.

Instead, on para 20, on investment, the Ministers commit to focus work in the next 2 years (until the 5th Ministerial) to clarify elements of a possible multilateral investment framework.  The core elements mentioned are the familiar ones---scope and definition, transparency, non-discrimination, pre-establishment commitments (GATS-type), with a mention of development provisions and exceptions/safeguards. Then at the 5th Ministerial  "a decision will be taken on modalities of negotiations in this area."   In other words, the next two years would already start negotiations (although couched in terms of "clarifying elements") and after the 5th Ministerial clear negotiations for an agreement will continue.

Para 21 on competition has the same format:  in the next 2 years, work will focus on clarifying elements of a possible multilateral framework (addressing core principles of transparency, nondiscrimination, procedural fairness, hardcore cartels).  At the 5th Ministerial, "a decision will be taken on modalities of negotiations in this area."   In other words, negotiations will already begin after Doha (couched in terms of clarifying
elements) and will pick up after the 5th Ministerial.

For transparency in govt procurement (para 22), negotiations will start straightaway.  So too for trade facilitation (para 23).

The decision by the Chairman of General Council to go ahead with these negotiations on the 4 Singapore issues goes against the expressed wishes of a majority of developing countries, which voiced their opposition and their not being prepared to begin negotiations, in statements made at the General Council on 2-3 October after the first draft appeared and also subsequently in informal meetings.

The revised draft on industrial tariffs (para 16) remains basically the same, ie to launch negotiations to reduce industrial tariffs, mentioning "product coverage shallshall be comprehensive and without a priori exclusions."  This is despite the submission by the LDC group and by a group of 7 African countries, that instead of negotiations, a study process should be initiated, to examine how previous reductions in industrial tariffs have hurt local industries and displaced jobs in developing countries.  Only upon the completion of the study process should there be consideration of negotiations.  This proposal arose because of the anxieties of these countries that their local industries have already been very adversely affected by prevsious industrial tariff cuts. This concern and the proposal to have a prior study process has been ignored by the revised draft.

The section on TRIPS (para 17 and 18) is as weak as before.  It makes a reference to a separate document on TRIPS and health, which is an inadequate and controversial draft with which developing countries and NGOs alike are unhappy about.  It does not reflect concerns about patenting of life.  It is oblivious to the rising public concerns that TRIPS is imbalanced in favour of rights holders and against consumers especially of essential goods like medicines and of users of technology. It is oblivious to the public call for radical changes to TRIPS and for removing TRIPS from WTO.

The final section (organisation of work program, para 38 to 45) is very dangerous.  Like in the first draft, it contains all the elements of a comprehensive Round, despite the fact that LDCs and many other developing countries had protested against these elements.  The elements of a broad Round include:  (a) negotiations to conclude not later than....(a certain date).  (para 38).  (b) negotiations to be supervised by a Trade Negotiations Committee whioch will establish "appropriate negotiating mechanisms".  (para 39). (c) The outcome of negotiations will be treated as parts of a single undertaking (Para 40). (d) elements of the work program that do not involve negotiations are accorded high priority and report of progress will be made to the 5th Ministerial (This gives a mechanism to upgrade these elements into negotiations for agreements or new rules). (para 41).


CONCLUSION:

The demands of civil society (no new round, turnaround) and also of many developing countries (resolve imbalances and implementation problems, don't start a broad-based new round) have been totally ignored.  There is a massive attempt here to give even more unprecedented rights to the large corporations of developed countries at the expense of space for domestic policy making, and of consumers, the public and  small and medium firms and farms and their employees.

 


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