TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec09/04)
16 December 2009
Third World Network

G33 stresses development mandate, importance of SP/SSM
Published in SUNS #6825 dated 1 December 2009

Geneva, 30 Nov (Kanaga Raja) -- The Group of 33 (G33) developing countries in the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Sunday cautioned against any attempt to dilute the development mandate of the Doha Round nor compromise the agreed Doha mandates on special and differential treatment, particularly on Special Products (SPs) and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM).

The Group expressed concern at recent trends to retract commitments made in a long, hard-fought, negotiated and balanced package that is now on the table. It noted that this package is already market access-focussed, particularly for those countries that are expected to provide leadership and which are still seeking a disproportionate number of flexibilities.

The G33 reiterated its long-held conviction that the "international trade regime must complement the realization of our development requirement by guaranteeing our food security, livelihood security and rural development."

The multilateral trading system should be supportive to the needs of all people, especially those who tend to be marginalised by globalization.

The Group observed that the current economic and financial crisis has highlighted the issue of marginalisation and eroded the legitimacy of globalization. Therefore, in order to strengthen the global economy, we need to adopt inclusive approaches to ensure sustainable global economic recovery, growth and development, it said.

It urged WTO Members to respect commitments to advance the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) in addressing the capacity of the current multilateral trading system in tackling the development needs of developing countries.

It further urged WTO Members to remain cognizant of the subsistence nature of agriculture in most developing countries and therefore the need to ensure the livelihood of farmers.

It said that the present crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of the agriculture system and the need for safeguarding the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable in agriculture around the world. The crisis has also put the issue of food security at the top of the global agenda. Trade in agriculture has to be calibrated in view of pressure from highly distortive domestic supports and export subsidies, it added.

The Group reiterated its commitment to engage constructively in agriculture negotiations with the objectives of early conclusion of the DDA that delivers a balanced and pro-development outcome.

The Group instructed negotiators to continue working with the Chair of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture and Members on the remaining issues of the SSM, with a view to achieving a balanced solution in establishing a simple, operational, effective, and non-burdensome SSM.

In this context, said the Group, there is a lot of work that remains to be done, to improve the December 2008 Chair's draft text.

The Group also re-emphasized the centrality of the multilateral process in all stages of the DDA negotiations and would only treat bilateral/plurilateral processes as instruments to enhance mutual understanding. Thus, this process must always adhere to the principles of bottom-up, inclusive and transparent approach.

"We believe that collective effort to reach the end-point of the DDA Round will very much depend on the degree of real re-engagement and flexibility of all Members as well as on the leadership of larger players, particularly major developed countries. We therefore call upon all Members for utmost political will and readiness to conclude the Round by 2010," the G33 concluded.

At a media briefing after the G33 Ministerial meeting, Mari Pangestu, the Trade Minister of Indonesia, which is the coordinator of the Group, emphasized several key points in the G33 Ministerial communique, namely, stressing the centrality of development in the Doha Round.

For the G33, the centrality of development in the Doha negotiations is all about the importance of food security, livelihood security and rural development, as well as the importance of special and differential treatment as translated into the instruments of Special Products (SPs) and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM).

She added that the Group also emphasized that the starting point of continuing the negotiations, should be the existing draft text. The Group raised concerns over any trends to retract commitments already made in what it sees as a very long hard-fought negotiated and balanced package which already reflects the development mandate and the centrality of development.

She further said that given that SSM is one of the remaining issues to be completed, the Group has instructed its negotiators to continue working with the Chair of the agriculture negotiations to work on the remaining issues of the SSM.

She added that the Group is continuing work at the technical level and continuing to engage constructively, "with a view to have a simple, operational, effective and non-burdensome" SSM.

In response to a question on the SSM, she said that it has never been the intention of the instrument to impede market access, which has been the concern of countries such as the United States.

"We are still seeking the right balance to ensure that these instruments that we have developed for the purposes of protecting the subsistence farmers are certainly not intended to be used only for impeding market access, but is intended as a safeguard instrument," she said.

"I think there are ways that we can find this balance, and this has been very much part of the technical discussions that are ongoing," she added. +