TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec05/16)

15 Dec 2005

G33 says "Development at Risk," pushes for SP, SSM

Hong Kong, 13 Dec (Goh Chien Yen) - At a press conference today, Indonesian Trade Minister, Mari Pangestu, speaking on behalf of the G33 group of developing countries,  voiced the group's disappointment with the lack of "meaningful responses" in the negotiations so far on their proposals to ensure food security, livelihood security and rural development.

"Current trade liberalization negotiations have singularly and mistakenly focused on obtaining greater market access to developing country markets, and have sidestepped other equally if not more important issues in the agriculture trade," she said. The G33 are concerned that development needs are "continuously being undermined and are at risk of being marginalized in the current agriculture negotiations" and this "contravenes the Doha Development Agenda," Pagustu emphasized. 

According to a G33 Ministerial Communiqué, the issues of food security, livelihood security and rural development, "cannot be negotiated in exchange for market access... These are vital human concerns and are therefore non-negotiable."   The G33, comprising 45 developing countries with defensive interests in agriculture, has submitted detailed proposals on modalities on special products (SP) and special safeguard mechanism (SSM) in the last few months.  The G33 ministers stressed that SP and SSM are "gateway issues" for them, and "no modalities can be acceptable without these two elements together as a package in the market access pillar."

On the group's expectations for Hong Kong, Pangestu said the G33 must see "a high degree of specificity" on SP and SSM.  "For SP there must be agreement that any developing country Member shall have the right to self-designate at least 20% of tariff lines as SPs, and will use indicators to guide such designation."  Furthermore, "the treatment of SPs must be more flexible, including no new TRQ commitments, and exemption from tariff reductions."

For SSM, "the mechanism shall permit recourse to both import price-triggered and import volume-triggered remedial actions on any agriculture product." At the press conference, Pangestu said that some developed country members have tried to curtail the group's SSM proposal, by limiting it to only volume triggered actions and allowing only a handful of products to SSM. These developed countries had also argued that only products with low tariffs or staple food products could have recourse to SSM.

She said that the G33 ministers also insist that the "structure of the tiered formula for tariff reductions must have built-in S and D treatment elements through, among other things, higher thresholds and adequate proportionality in the level of reduction commitments.  On domestic support, the G33 wants to see developing countries exempted from commitments to reduce de minimis support, either on a "stand-alone basis or as part of reduction of overall trade-distorting support."