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TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (June04/3)

9 June 2004

Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues,

 

G90 MINI-MINISTERIAL ADOPTS COMPREHENSIVE PROPOSALS ON DOHA PROGRAMME

“Drop three Singapore issues from the work programme”

The “mini-Ministerial” meeting of the Group of 90 in Georgetown, Guyana, ended on 4 June with the adoption of three documents relating to the G90’s positions on the post-Cancun  Doha work programme.  18 delegations attended the meeting, with ten of them led by Ministers.

The three documents were the Georgetown Communique, the Georgetown Consensus on the Doha Work Programme and a set of main decisions of the meeting.    A fourth document, the G90 Platform, was debated intensely and will be revised and then sent to the G90 Ambassadors in Geneva to discuss.

The documents will input into the full Ministerial meeting of the G90 to be held in Mauritius on 15-16 July.  That meeting will be to enable the G90 to take a common position for the WTO’s end-July General Council meeting.

Among the highlights of the Consensus document was a call by the G90 representatives for l meeting of the “dropping from the work programme” three of the Singapore issues - competition, investment and transparency in government procurement.

On the fourth issue, trade facilitation, the meeting said that before any agreement by explicit consensus on negotiating modalities, a number of issues should be clarified first, including the resource and capacity constraints of developing countries, the costs of implementing the new rules and how and by whom the costs will be met.

The G90 representatives also stated that the G90 countries should be exempt from any tariff reduction commitments in agriculture and non-agriculture market access.

Attached below is a detailed TWN report of the outcome of the G90 mini-Ministerial.

With best wishes

Martin Khor

TWN

  

G90 MINI-MINISTERIAL ADOPTS PROPOSALS ON DOHA PROGRAMME

TWN Report by Martin Khor, Georgetown, Guyana 7 June 2004

A meeting of Ministerial representatives of the Group of 90 developing countries held here on 3-4 to prepare for the end-July General Council meeting of the World Trade Organisation has called for the “dropping from the work programme” three of the Singapore issues - competition, investment and transparency in government procurement.

On the fourth issue, trade facilitation, the meeting said that before any agreement by explicit consensus on negotiating modalities, a number of issues should be clarified first, including the resource and capacity constraints of developing countries, the costs of implementing the new rules and how and by whom the costs will be met.

The G90 representatives also stated that the G90 countries should be exempt from any tariff reduction commitments in agriculture and non-agriculture market access (NAMA). 

These points were in a 9-page Georgetown Consensus on the Doha Work Programme, in which the G90 representatives also:

·        Welcomed the recent initiative in favour of “weak and vulnerable economies” and urged WTO members to consider such initiatives in order to address the specificity and development needs of the G90;

·        Called on members to take account of the importance of preferential access for developing countries in agriculture and to address preference erosion in agriculture and non-agriculture products, including through compensatory and other mechanisms;

·        Called for substantial reduction with a view of phasing out amber box and blue box domestic support in agriculture, and a review of Green Box criteria and enhanced disciplines;

·        Expressed concern that on NAMA, the Derbez text and the different formulae submitted would not provide policy space for G90 countries to undertake industrial policy and development objectives, emphasized that the non-linear approach does not provide the basis for equitable results, and called for any sectoral approach to be on a voluntarfy basis.

·        Called for the July framework to commit to address the trade-related and development-related aspects of the cotton initiative on a fast-track process.                                   

·        Called for a work programme to operationalising S and D provisions within a specified time frame, and the committee on trade and development in special session to work on remaining agreement-specific proposals and otheroutstanding issues.

·        Asked that the trade negotiations committee set up a negotiating group to address all remaining outstanding implementation issues and put forward decisions for adoption by December 2004.

·        Called for the WTO to address declining commodity prices through negotiations.

·        Stated that the G90 is against considering any new commitments in the absence of complete settlement of outstanding agreement-specific S&D proposals and of outstanding implementation issues.

The meeting, described as a “mini G90 Ministerial”, was attended by Ministers and their representatives of 18 countries - Antigua and Barbuda, Barbadoes, Belize, Benin, Cuba, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Zambia.

It was chaired by Guyana Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Clement Rohee, who said the main purpose was to deal with elements of a possible framework agreement now being discussed for the end-July WTO General Council meeting, so that the G90 can strategically position itself to influence that outcome.

The G90 is a coalition and umbrella of three constituent groupings - the LDC Group, the African Union, and the ACP Group.  It is the largest coalition of members operating in the WTO.

Besides the Georgetown Consensus, the meeting also adopted a Georgetown Communique and a set of Main Decisions.   The two documents will be disseminated among G90 members.  They are expected to be an important basis for drawing up the outcomes of a full G90 Ministerial meeting to be held in Mauritius on 15-16 July.

Another paper, the G90 Platform Document, will be revised and sent to ACP ambassadors and G90 Permanent Representatives in Geneva to consider, and also be discussed at the Mauritius meeting.

At a press briefing after the meeting ended, Rohee announced that the meeting had succeeded in hammering out a common G90 platform and it was now up to the ACP secretariat and the G90 ambassadors in Brussels and Geneva to ensure the document is further refined and adopted at the G90 Mauritius Ministerial.

“We also succeeded to formulate our views on the main areas being negotiated in WTO - agriculture, NAMA, development issues and Singapore issues,” said Rohee.  “These positions will be subjected to further consultation with the G90 membership and further at the Mauritius meeting.  

“The positions we will take to the WTO General Council in July will be with the total unanimity of the G90, which will be finalized in Mauritius.”

Rohee said the Georgetown meeting also took a decision to recommend the establishment of a mechanism to ensure effective coordination and consultation among G90 countries at political level.     The details of this proposed  mechanism (believed to be a steering committee at Ministerial level) will be worked out by Mauritius and the ACP secretariat for discussion at the Mauritius Ministerial.

Rohee was also mandated by the meeting to communicate the documents of the Georgetown meeting to the constituent groups of the G90, and to consult with G90 members that were not present.

“Our objectives are to get the Doha work back on track and that the interests of the G90 are formally entrenched” said Rohee at the briefing.

The first day of the Georgetown meeting saw an interesting opening ceremony, with representatives of various key players in the current WTO negotiations (including the G90 represented by the Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo, the G20 represented by Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, the European Commission represented by its Guyana head of delegation, and the WTO secretariat represented by Stuart Harbinson) presenting often contrasting views of the state of play and their positions.

This was followed by a debate on a draft G90 Platform document on various issues, including agriculture, NAMA and Singapore issues.   

The second day was spent on intense discussion on drafts of the Georgetown Communique and the Georgetown Consensus, and a set of Main Decisions, which were all finalized and adopted.  The Platform document is to be revised and transmitted to Geneva for further work by G90 ambassadors.

The Georgetown Communiqué affirmed the Dakar Declaration of the LDC trade ministers and the Kigali Declaration and Consensus of the AU ministers, arising from meetings in May.

It expressed disappointment with the current lack of flexibility in the Doha negotiations on subjects of interest to developing countries, such as implementation issues, S and D treatment, small economies, modalities for agriculture and NAMA and cotton.

It also expressed concern about the continued erosion of preferences for their exports, inadequate adjustment perios and lack of compensation for attendant losses in earnings. 

It was encouraged by the EU initiative to recognize G90 countries and theoir proposal to exempt them from further commitments in some areas.

It called on WTO members to fully take account of the interest sand development needs of G90 countries and agree to the positions in the Georgetown Consensus.

The Georgetown Consensus on the Doha Work Programme has sections on agriculture, NAMA, cotton, development-related issues, Singapore issues, DSU and commodity issues.

On the Singapore issues, it states that “the potentially burdensome requirement to negotiate the Singapore issues as well as the potential serious implications of agreements on these issues continues to be a concern for G90 countries.”  It noted the increasing convergence of views on the development of a more precise and focused work programme on trade facilitation.

Before any agreement by explicit consensus on negotiating modalities, a number of issues should be clarified first.  These include, inter alia, the need to address the resource and capacity constraints of developing countries, the costs of implementing the new rules and how and by whom the costs will be met.

The paper continues:  “We support dropping from the work programme trade and competition policy, trade and investment, and transparency in government procurement.”

[This formulation leaves open the question whether the issues should be dropped from the Doha work programme or the WTO work programnme and is similar to the wording in the African Union Ministers’ Kigali Consensus of May].

On agriculture, the paper states that the agriculture sectors of G90 countries are extremely fragile and vulnerable to internal and external shocks. Tariffs are the only means that these countries have at their disposal to provide a modicum of support for the survival of their agricultural sectors.

Many are small countries with fragile eco-systems, often dependent on a few export commodities to preferential markets, and many of these long-standing preferential arrangements are being eroded or being challenged through the WTO dispute process.

G90 countries do not have the wherewithal to provide much technical, financial or infrastructure support to their producers, and depressed world prices (often due to subsidies in rich countries) affect their producers’ ability to compete either on internal or external markets.  Thus, S and D measures shall be an integral part of any agreement. 

“G90 countries welcome the recent initiative in favour of weak and vulnerable economies and urge WTO members to consider such initiatives in order to address the specificity and development needs of the G90.”

The guiding principles of the G90 on agriculture are that: (i) further reform should aim at attaining the Doha objectives and take account of the need for appropriate policy space for the G90 countries to pursue agriculture policies supportive of their development goals, poverty reduction strategies, export policies, food security, livelihood and other non-trade concerns and which enhance social cohesion;  (ii) the framework and modalities should address themselves fully on all three pillars in a balanced and equitable manner;  and (iii)  binding, precise and effective S&D is an integral part of all elements.

On market access, preference erosion shall be addressed, and be offset by establishing compensatory and other mechanisms, including measures that promote G90 countries’ exports.

G90 countries should be exempt from any tariff reduction commitments.

The tariff reduction formula or formulas applicable to all other countries shall be such as to provide G90 countries with enhanced market access for agricultural products in primary and processed forms.  NTBs should be fully addressed.

Due to the need to protect preferential arrangements, developed countries shall provide duty and quota free market access for all products from G90 countries, with realistic, flexible and simplified rules of origin.  The potential in certain developing countries to extend such facilities to G90 countries should be exploited.

Developing countries shall have the flexibility to self-select tariff lines as special products, and a special agriculture safeguard mechanism shall be established for developing countries.  The use and duration of the special safeguard by developed countries remains to be negotiated.

Tariff peaks and escalation especially in developed countries should be addressed, and in doing so the interest of preference receiving countries shall be taken account of.

More simplified and transparent tariff quota regimes which benefit the G90 should be adopted, and interests of preference receiving countries shall be taken account of.

On domestic support, the Consensus says that all forms of trade distorting domestic support measures by developed countries should be substantially reduced.  The scope of Article 6.2 (which refers to developing countries’ ability to apply certain domestic support measures) shall be maintained and expanded. 

G90 countries shall be exempt from reduction commitments in respect of domestic support.

Developed countries shall eliminate the 5% de minimis domestic support.  The paper also calls for substantial reduction in amber and blue box measures “with a view to their phasing out.”

Green Box criteria shall be reviewed to ensure the measures have no trade-distorting effects on production and disciplines enhanced through notification, surveillance and monitoring.  Domestic support measures consistent with Annex 2 of the AoA shall be enhanced for developing countries.

The paper also proposes that members establish rules to discipline the extent to which members may transfer subsidies between and within boxes.

On export competition, the paper proposes a commitment to phase out all forms of export subsidization by a certain date as part of the framework.  The G90 countries shall be exempted from reduction commitments on all forms of export subsidization.

The Marrakech Decision on negative effects of reform on LDCs and net food importing developing countries should be speedily implemented, and effective S and D provisions in favour of LDCs and NFIDCs should be established in export credit disciplines.

Developed countries should ensure measures to help LDCs develop supply side capacities.  Food aid should comply with transparency rules.  State trading enterprises of developing countries shall be exempt from additional disciplines.

On NAMA, the paper says G90 members should be excluded from tariff reduction commitments.

The G90 countries are concerned that the proposals in the Derbez text along with different formulae that have been submitted would not provide “policy space” and flexibility to allow G90 countries to undertake industrial policy and national development objectives.  “In this respect, it should be emphasized that the non-linear approach does not provide the basis for equitable results.”

In addition, the “less than full reciprocity” referred to in Doha Declaration para 16 should not be limited to lesser tariff cuts for developing countries and LDCs and longer transition periods.  “The principle of less than full reciprocity and the issue of SDT should be fully addr5essed for G90 countries which do not have the capacity for further liberalization.”

The paper adds that erosion of preferential margins due to MFN tariff reductions shall be offset by establishing compensatory and other appropriate mechanisms to fully address the impact of preference erosion, including measures to promote G90 countries’ exports. 

“Solutions to the negative impact of preference erosion should be obtained within the WTO negotiations and should not be outsourced to other multilateral institutions.”

The paper says a sectoral approach will be unfavourable to G90 preferences on their principal export markets.  In the event there would be sectoral liberalization, it should take place on a voluntary basis, to take account of preferences on export markets; and in this eventuality there should be agreement to determine the sectors to be included. 

Supplementary modalities (zero for zero etc) should not be introduced.

Tariff bindings should be approached in a way that creates incentives to those countries that have not bound their tariffs to do so, and tariff binding should be acknowledged as the main contribution by those that decide to do so.  Credit should be given for autonomous liberalization.

Developed countries shall provide duty and quota free market access for all G90 products, with realistic, flexible and simplified rules of origin;  the potential in certain developing countries to extend such facilities to G90 countries should be exploited.

On the cotton initiative, the G90 paper endorses the WTO proposals by the sponsors.  It calls on WTO members to adopt those proposals, including total elimination of export subsidies in 3 years and on domestic support in 4 years with effect from 1 Jan. 2005; and establishing a cotton support fund in favour of African LDC cotton producers and net exporters.

The paper requests implementation of the conclusions of the cotton workshop in Benin (March 2004) and underscores that settlement of the issue should consider trade-related elements to be adopted by WTO to eliminate domestic support and subsidies for cotton production and export.

The July framework should address both the trade and development aspects on a fast-track basis.

On development issues, the paper says progress on SDT has “fallen far short of our expectations in terms of the Doha objectives.”   G90 countries are firmly against any new commitments in the absence of complete settlement of outstanding agreement-specific S&D proposals.

In future work on outstanding SDT proposals, the G90 countries’ special needs should be prioritized and weakening of these proposals should be avoided.

The General Council should agree on a work programme for operationalising SDT provisions within a specified time frame, to set early deadlines for adopting outstanding proposals and to monitor work.  The committee on trade and development in special session should pursue work on remaining agreement-specific proposals and outstanding issues and report to the General Council with recommendations by December 2004.  The Council shall report on this to the next Ministerial session.

On implementation, the paper says positive results have nbot yet been achieved, and a significant number of issues remain outstanding.  The Doha mandates on implementation should be reaffirmed with renewed determination to give priority and find solutions to them.

“The trade negotiating committee should be instructed to set up a negotiating group under its auspices which will establish a work programme for addressing all remaining outstanding implementation issues within a specified time frame, and put forward decisions for adoption by December 2004.”

The TNC and other bodies concerned should be instructed to redouble their efforts to find solutions as a priority and the DG should continue consultations on certain issues.  The general Council should review progress and take action no later than March 2005.

“G90 countries are firmly against consideration of any new commitments in the absence of the complete settlement of outstanding implementation related issues and concerns.” 

On small economies, the paper calls on WTO members on adopt measures to facilitate fuller integration of small, vulnerable economies into tha trade system and adopt trade related measures in their favour by December 2004.

On the commodity issue, the paper states that the sharp decline and fluctuation of prices of commodities has created a crisis in most G90 countries.  It urges the WTO to address this issue, taking account of elements identified as key negotiating issues in documents WT/COMTD/W/113 and 130.

 


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