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TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (July 04/7)

15 July 2004

Third World Network

G90 MINISTERIAL MEETING ENDS WITH “PLATFORM” DECLARATION

Trade Ministers of the Group of 90 developing coiuntries met in Mauritius on 12-13 July and they have adopted a declaration on the “Elements of a G90 Platform on the Doha Work Programme”.  

It reiterated more or less the same positions as the ACP countries (which met also in Mauritius just prior to the G90 meeting) on agriculture, insisted on stand alone talks on the cotton subsidy issue, rejected the use in the July framework package of the Derbez text on NAMA, and indicated conditional willingness to “favourably consider” trade facilitation provided the G90 concerns are met and there is satisfactory balance in the overall framework.  The Ministers also called for the dropping from the Work Programme the other three Singapore issues - investment, competition policy and transparency in government procurement.

On non-agricultural market access (NAMA), the Ministers rejected a decision by the NAMA chairman to use the Derbez text as the basis for preparing the July package.  On the cotton initiative, the G90 insisted on its being dealt with as  a “stand-alone”  negotiating issue and not subsumed into the agriculture negotiations.

In the Declaration, the G90 referred to themselves as “the Alliance of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of states, the African Union (AU) and the Least Developed Countries”.

Below is a report on the G90 meeting by Tetteh Hormeku, programme director of TWN Africa secretariat and coordinator of the African Trade Network.  The report was published in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) edited by Chakravarthi Raghavan.

With best wishes

Martin Khor

TWN

 

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G90 Ministerial Meeting ends with Platform on Doha Programme

TWN Report by Tetteh Hormeku, Grand Baie, Mauritius 14 July 2004

Trade Ministers of the Group of 90 developing coiuntries,  at their meeting here  on 12-13 July have adopted a declaration reiterating more or less the same positions as the ACP countries on agriculture, insisted on stand alone talks on the cotton subsidy issue, rejected the use in the July framework package of the Derbez text on NAMA, and indicated conditional willingness to “favourably consider” trade facilitation.

The conditions set out on trade facilitation talks and its being included in the July framework package include that the concerns of the G90 countries on trade facilitation are substantively addressed and there is satisfactory balance in the overall framework.

The Ministers also called for the dropping from the Work Programme the other three Singapore issues - investment, competition policy and transparency in government procurement.

Adopting a Declaration on the “Elements of a G90 Platform on the Doha Work Programme”, the G90 Ministers put off for further consultations, the setting up of a G90 Ministerial Steering Committee for the negotiations.

On non-agricultural market access (NAMA), among others the G90 called for continued enjoyment of “adequate and effective” levels of preferences they now enjoy, and for a “carve-out” in respect of sectoral talks with regard to products of export interest to the G90.

On the cotton subsidy issue, and the cotton initiative of the four West African cotton producers, the G90 insisted on the issue being dealt with as a “stand-alone” negotiations and not subsumed into the agriculture negotiations as proposed by the US and EC (the two subsidisers of cotton production, and subsidised exports by the US).

In the Declaration, the G90 referred to themselves as “the Alliance of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of states, the African Union (AU) and the Least Developed Countries”.

The Ministers rejected the  decision by the NAMA Chair to use Annex B of the Derbez text as the basis for the preparation of the framework, and said the G90 are prepared to consider the framework positively only if it included the elements their countries have raised in the process of the negotiations.

The ‘elements of the platform’ re-affirmed the outcomes of the recent meetings held by members of the G-90, including the ACP Ministerial Declaration adopted by the meeting of  ACP trade ministers which immediately preceded the G-90 meeting.

On the Singapore Issues, the platform document said that the G-90 agrees that the three issues (Trade and Competition Policy; Trade and Investment, and Transparency in Government Procurement) should be dropped from the Work Programme. The G90 indicated its willingness to favourably consider Trade Facilitation provided “our concerns in this area are substantively addressed and there is a satisfactory balance in the overall framework of the negotiations.”

The Ministers explained that their position on trade facilitation was meant to show flexibility in order to move the negotiations under the Doha work programme forward. The issue of what would be the appropriate measure of flexibility required by Ministers in this regard was extensively discussed in the meeting of the ACP Trade Ministers.

Indications of what the Ministers would consider as meeting the requirement for their concerns in the area of trade facilitation to be substantively addressed as well as the attainment of overall balance in the framework are contained in the “Conclusions of the 8th Ministerial Meeting of the ACP Ministers of Trade, which became  available in the final stages of the G-90 meeting.

The conclusions of the ACP Ministers, in a paragraph similar to the one adopted in the G-90 platform, said that “Ministers also indicated their willingness to favourably consider Trade Facilitation provided certain conditions which are listed in paragraph 46 of the ACP declaration are addressed and that there is satisfactory balance in the overall framework.”

That paragraph (about satisfactory balance) said: “The Ministers were of the view that issues pertaining to, inter alia, exemption from reduction commitments in agriculture and NAMA, binding commitments on preferences, a satisfactory solution to the question of cotton and commitments on special and differential treatment on market access would contribute to creating the required balance.  In this respect, they mandated the ACP Geneva Ambassadors to negotiate along these lines while ensuring that the ACP states interests and concerns are addressed.”

On Non-Agricultural Market Access, the G-90 Platform document said that “the G-90 is disappointed by the decision of the Chairman of NAMA to transmit Annex B of the Derbez Text to the Chairman of the General Council as a basis for the preparation of the Framework without incorporating the concerns expressed through our various submissions during the process of negotiations.  The Alliance reiterates that it is prepared to consider the framework positively only if it included the elements we have raised in the process of the negotiations.”

The platform also stated that “the Derbez text in general, and its annex on NAMA are in contradiction with the principle of less than fully reciprocity enshrined in the Doha Ministerial Declaration, and as such, would further deepen the crisis of de-industrialisation and accentuate the unemployment and poverty crisis in our countries.”

“It is, therefore, imperative,” the G90 text said, “that the July package should contain a number of measures, including:

·        ‘policy space and flexibility’ to allow G-90 states to undertake industrial policy and national development objectives;

·        incorporating the concerns of the individual G-90 constituents expressed through their various submissions made during the process of negotiations;

·        approach the issue of tariff binding in a way that created incentives to enable those countries that have not bound their tariff to do so, and acknowledge the bindings of tariffs as the main contribution to this round by the G-90 countries that so engage;

·        adopt a tariff reduction approach which provides sufficient flexibility and scope to enable the G-90 countries to continue to have adequate and effective levels of preferences necessary for the maintenance of competitiveness in their export markets;

·        ensure that due to the critical importance of preferences for the Members of the G-90,  solutions to the questions of preference erosion are obtained within the WTO negotiations;

·        exempt LDCs from any reduction commitment;

·        ensure that Developed countries, and those developing countries in a position to do so, grant bound duty and quota free market access to all products originating from the LDCs;

·        recognise the sectoral approach would be detrimental to G-90 Members benefiting from long-standing preferences in major export markets, and seek to have suitable carve-out in favour of G-90 economies with regard to products of their export interest;

·        contain provisions which address the supply side constraints of G-90 countries in order for them to take advantage of any increased market opportunities;

·        other weak and vulnerable members of the G-90 should be exempted from any reduction commitment; and

·        address expeditiously and effectively all non-tariff barriers (NTBs) notified by G-90 countries in the NAMA group.

On Agriculture, the G-90 platform said that “agriculture is of critical importance to the economic development of G-90 States and other developing countries, and holds the potential to lift millions out of poverty.  Accordingly, within the context of the July package, it is imperative that:

·        the Framework and the eventual modalities to be agreed upon should address the three pillars (of agriculture reform - domestic support, export competitivity and market access) in a balanced and equitable manner;

·        S&D provisions be binding, effective and meaningful;

·        the importance of longstanding preferences be recognised and that the issue of preference erosion be addressed;

·        the concerns of the NFIDCs (net food importing developing countries) and the LDCs be fully taken into account in the development of disciplines on export credits and food aid;

·        LDCs be exempt from any reduction commitment;

·        Developed countries, and those developing countries in a position to do so, grant bound duty and quota free market access to all products originating from the LDCs;

·        provisions be made to enable developing countries to fully utilise the Special Products (SPs) and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) to effectively address their development, food security and livelihood security needs;

·        other weak and vulnerable members of the G90 should be exempt from any reduction commitments; and

·        members exercise restraint in applying TBT and SPS measures to products of G-90 countries and provide technical assistance for compliance with SPS and TBT requirements for the export of G-90 agricultural commodities.

On cotton, the Ministers said that it continues to be a vital issue for G-90 members and requires urgent attention. “In this regard, the G-90 underscores that it should be treated as stand-alone issue and not as part of the overall negotiations on agriculture.” They also stated that the “July Package should include a clear commitment to speedily and substantively address both the trade-related  aspects of the [cotton] initiative and their development-related counterparts be treated in a “fast-track” basis.

Under the issue of “development’, the G90 document stated that the “General Council should be instructed to agree on a work programme for the operationalisation of a S&D programme within a specified time frame and set an early deadline for the adoption of outstanding proposals, and to monitor the work closely on the proposals”.

Other issues addressed in the G-90 platform document related to services, trips and public health, coherence, accession for LDCs, and observer status for ACP, the AU, and to their inter-governmental and regional organisations.

Earlier, the meeting was addressed among others by Mauritius Trade Minister, the Tanzanian Trade Minister (coordinator of the LDCs), the Rwandan Minister (coordinating the African Union), Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath and  Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim (both representing the G20 in the Paris talks with the US and EC), the incoming EC Trade Commissioner Ms. Dauta Hubner and the USTR Robert Zoellick.

The spokespersons of the various G90 constituents articulated the motivations, concerns and expectations of their constituencies in the on-going negotiations.  Amorim and Kamal Nath emphasized the continued solidarity of the G90 and the G20 to ensure a pro-development outcome in the negotiations.

On the other side of this equation, the incoming EC Commissioner Ms. Hubner spoke of the EC support for the formation of the G90 and EC sharing some of the ideas of the G90. Zoellick recounted the US initiatives including the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and others, and the need for the G90 to work together with the US and other countries of the North and the South to save the Doha negotiations.

The messages of friendship from the different sides had a different point of resonance with the concerns expressed by  the G90 spokespersons.  India and Brazil for the G20 emphasised the unity, cohesion and solidarity of the G90 and G20 members in the face of the common problems faced by developing countries as a result of the inequities and imbalances of current WTO agreements, as well as of failures by members to live up to commitments.

On their side the USTR and the EU commissioner emphasised flexibility, balance and compromise.

The varying themes of unity, the inequities of the global system, as well as flexibility and compromise, were in turn reflected in the  speeches of spokespersons from the G90.

 


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