TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues
Members voice concerns
Geneva, 2 May (Kanaga Raja) -- A number of delegations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) have voiced deep concern over the current deadlock in the Doha negotiations, and have amongst others urged members to engage in constructive dialogue to try to break this deadlock, as well as to take collective decisions on the next steps.
These views came in
the interventions of various delegations at an informal meeting of the
Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) on 29 April, at which the Director-General,
Mr Pascal Lamy, warned that the
According to trade officials, the informal TNC meeting involved a political discussion in which Members expressed their concerns and the need to look at things from a different perspective.
Trade officials said that the membership was in accord over the fact that they cannot continue with "business as usual", meaning that the current approach to try to resolve the outstanding differences needs to be re-examined, and that the ten years of work since the launch of the Doha Round cannot be washed out to sea.
According to trade officials, no decisions were taken on these issues at the informal TNC meeting.
According to trade officials, the meeting also saw the introduction by the European Union of a non-paper on the sectoral negotiations, which members said they will study further.
A number of delegations spoke at the informal TNC meeting following the Director-General's statement, in his capacity as Chair of the TNC.
According to trade
The "Easter package"
reflects the state of play and it remains clear that there are gaps.
What is needed is a carefully calibrated work programme where the issues
on which there is broad convergence can be consolidated. There is need
to see if a way can be found to deliver on what is of importance to
the LDCs. There is broad convergence on LDC-specific issues, and with
political will, this could be developed into an early harvest and implemented.
The UN LDC IV conference (taking place in
The Cairns Group agreed with the Director-General's assessment that this current situation is "grave for the Round and for all of the efforts and aspirations it embodies."
"It is particularly unfortunate that in agriculture - one of the central drivers of these negotiations - the Chair's report clearly shows only limited progress has been made over the last two years. We are deeply concerned about the current state-of-play of the Doha Round," said the Group.
It is clear that substantial gaps in positions on key outstanding issues remain and this places real doubts on our ability to conclude the Round this year, said the Group, adding that it is not prepared to accept this scenario lightly - there is simply too much at stake in respect of the multilateral trading system and the importance of trade as an engine for economic growth and development.
"We agree that in the coming weeks, all Members need to think carefully about how we approach this most serious situation to find a way to break-through the deadlock. The Cairns Group will continue to work closely with all Members in our efforts to do so. But one thing is clear and that is a constructive contribution to get the Round done is needed from all Members."
On behalf of itself,
The ACP Group said that in reflecting on the present situation, "let us not forget where we are coming from. The global trading system was and is an imbalanced one which is strongly biassed against developing countries. This is why in 2001, we dubbed this round a Doha Development Round where development outcomes would be the measure of its success and where at long last, we could start correcting some of the glaring imbalances in the system and this after more than seventy years of a tilted multilateral trading history."
According to the ACP Group, its hopes were geared towards certain clear development outcomes, namely: (i) achieving some systemic gains in changing the mercantilist orientation of the system towards a more development friendly one; (ii) achieving some gain in market access for developing countries or at least, for some to preserve existing market access opportunities; (iii) to address the huge distortions in the market mainly in agriculture that developed country subsidies engender; and (iv) to address some of the imbalances in the horizontal rules governing trade which were against development.
Mauritius said that the ACP Group of countries which are small and vulnerable did not have the luxury of a choice in committing to the DDA; it was a compelling one in view of the need for a working and viable rule-based multilateral trading system as a vehicle for their smooth integration into the global economy. This is why the ACP has always engaged constructively in the DDA and this engagement has undeniably contributed in resolving some difficult problems to allow for progress.
"Yet we are faced with a stalemate to-day and ACP will have to pay a high price if the round does not conclude. Let us not fool ourselves, those who will be the most severely affected will be the poorer countries and this will have deep consequences for the global system as a whole. But beyond the economic sequel of a failure for our countries, there will be a resounding interrogation that our leaders will inevitably have to address. After having invested so many years and so much resources in those negotiations, what is the outcome? It is one where the multilateral trading system cannot deliver on its promise of development! And the question arises, why must we have faith in such a system?," said the ACP Group.
To prevent that credibility crisis, the ACP believed that "we are not in a technical dilemma in the negotiations anymore. We are neither in a process dilemma where some tweaking here and there will deliver. We are clearly in a political problem and we should collectively seek to consider ways and means how to face up to the situation. What options are available to us and how to face up to the situation?... We shall need to be creative collectively and chart out a course of action which will have as its horizon the December Ministerial Conference and beyond. In so doing, we need to think on how do we ensure, on the one hand, the perennity of the WTO as an institution whose indispensable role no one can deny and on the other ensure that its normative role does not get frozen!"
The ACP Group also welcomed the EU proposal on NAMA, which it said is a genuine effort to try to focus on real negotiations on a difficult issue with a view to find a way forward. Although the ACP is not a party to sectoral participation, it urged all concerned members to consider this proposal to sort out the present impasse.
In its statement at the TNC meeting, the European Union touched on three issues: (1) the EU's assessment of the state of play in the negotiations, including as regards the documents prepared by the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups; (2) possibilities to unlock the negotiations in NAMA sectorals; and (3) some broader considerations and a brief look ahead.
On the EU's assessment of the state of play in the negotiations, it welcomed the reports and documents that were circulated to the Members on 21 April. "While each report is of course unavoidably overshadowed by the standstill of the negotiations mainly due to what the Director-General describes as a large political gap in market access, on the whole, the documents are very valuable in capturing the work and progress achieved in the course of almost 10 years of negotiations even if in a few cases our proposals have not been adequately reflected. Together, the documents and reports constitute a solid basis for further negotiations."
The EU agreed that Members are well-advised to carefully evaluate the value of what is already on the table and the way that this could be affected by a prolonged stalemate in the NAMA sectoral negotiations.
The EU went on to outline in broad terms its potential compromise scenario for NAMA sectorals. The EU said that the negotiations on NAMA sectorals constitute at this moment, the immediate and next gateway issue. It is clear that without an ambitious result on sectorals - particularly as regards the economically significant sectors of chemicals, machinery and electronics - it will not be possible to conclude the Round in its current form.
"Our view has always been that not all options and avenues in this market access area had been explored. This is why we felt we should formulate ideas to stimulate further engagement," said the EU. It noted that the present patterns of world trade, which have seen profound changes since the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, mean that participation of both developed and developing Members is needed for any sectoral to reach the required coverage of world trade.
The EU said that as concerns developing countries that are highly competitive exporters accounting for a large share of world trade, it is only logical and legitimate to expect them to join developed countries in additional liberalisation through NAMA sectorals.
While participation of certain large developing Members is a necessary condition for a sectoral to enter into force, the exact modality of their participation is subject to negotiation, and would not necessarily have to be identical to that applied by developed Members. However, the modality does need to be one that delivers significant and proportionate tariff reductions on top of the results created by the application of the Swiss formula, and efforts proportionate to those of developed Members, the EU added.
The EU said it is convinced that methods and formulae do exist to generate a sectoral package that would deliver significant new market access in both developed and developing countries, while respecting Special and Differential Treatment, which is the guiding principle of the whole Doha Development Agenda. "We are also confident that solutions can be found to ensure that efforts that Members would be asked to do in sectorals are proportionate to the tariff levels that they will have following the application of the Swiss formula." (See SUNS #7140 dated 2 May 2011 for details of the EU non-paper on sectorals.)
Looking ahead, the EU said that political will by both developed and developing members is needed to overcome the current difficulties in the negotiations. "As far as the European Union is concerned, we are not prepared to give up until we have made a serious and concerted effort to negotiate solutions to the issues that currently divide the membership. I do not know if anyone here has received, from capitals, political (i. e. ministerial) level instructions to abandon the market access part of the negotiation. Certainly, this is not the case for the EU."
While the gateway to progress is clearly through the NAMA sectorals, the EU said "we must not set aside or ignore other important areas where a lot of work remains to be done. On the market access side this includes services, where results are clearly disappointing. In addition, solid results in a number of 'rules' type negotiation topics are required to reinforce the WTO as a guarantor of open markets. Also in Agriculture, unfinished business should be concluded."
The second element, said the G20, is that the Chair's report (TN/AG/26) is objective and follows a consensus-based, bottom-up, no-surprises approach. The G20 took note of the Chair's assessments and comments in his report. Those views will certainly be tested in any effort to advance negotiations under the different negotiating pillars of the December 2008 draft modalities.
The G20 concurred with the assessment of the Director-General that the Doha Round faces a critical situation. The G20 believed that WTO Members "must promptly engage in discussions to consider courses of action that could respond to the challenges we face in ways that are supportive of the multilateral trading system". The G20 said that it will continue to pursue the objective of achieving an ambitious and balanced outcome in agriculture that delivers on the development objectives of the Round in accordance with the mandate.
On behalf of itself, Brazil (represented by Ambassador Roberto Azevedo) said that "in examining the voluminous set of documents delivered to us, it becomes obvious how much we have advanced in translating into technical concepts, structure, and legal language the Doha Ministerial Declaration, the July 2004 Framework, and the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration. The reports done by you (Director-General) and the Chairs are the basis for the resumption of work on any of the pillars of the single undertaking, whenever, wherever and in whatever format it happens. They consolidate a decade or more of hard work and the bargains made in that period. This must be treasured and preserved by us all."
we are deeply disappointed that we have, so far, not been able to deliver
the promises of the Development Round.
"Political and technical efforts continue to be deployed in order to address the identified negotiating gaps and to find solutions. We welcome all steps taken in that direction, we support them, and we wish them to bear fruit. Nevertheless, we share your (Director-General's) assessment that gaps, at least today, seem to be unbridgeable. We must keep seeking solutions, but we must also face the fact that, right now, the chances of success for gap-closing efforts in market access are disappointingly low. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and keep working in the same mode we were before. At a minimum, we must talk to each other - in confidence when necessary - but always honestly, candidly, openly, sometimes even bluntly, about how to deal with the situation you (Director-General) described in your report," said the Brazilian envoy.
must not prejudge what we do with the
"We are under a duty to ensure that our future work is also directed to the strengthening and re-vitalisation of the WTO, which is bigger than the Round and transcends it," said Ambassador Azevedo.
The African Group said it believes in the multilateral trading system and "expects the global benefits to accrue to all of us, especially the poorest." But today, the multilateral trading system appears to be stalling. "After all the intensive efforts and attendant costs born throughout the years, there is need to change our style of doing business to save the situation."
The Group posed the following question: "Is it expected that after ten years of tireless efforts, developing countries will be invited to join another round of trade negotiations if this one fails? Unfortunately the answer to this question is not an easy one. "We wonder if the Doha Development Agenda is not concluded this year, what consequences it would have on future attempts to negotiate. Definitely the differences that are not bridgeable at this stage shall be weighed against the role of the WTO as a negotiating body and we therefore urge all Members to be realistic and to re-think about the global costs that are inherent in the failure of the system."
The Group was extremely concerned at the willingness of some members to hold up an important trade-based development and growth package; without attempting to make any contribution to the positive acquis of the Round to date in favour of LDCs, SVEs (Small Vulnerable Economies) and other disadvantaged economies. "Although we believe in the Single Undertaking, we are also keenly aware that the speed at which the various elements of the Round have moved has been unequal. Here we would like to register our concern at the slow speed with which our concerns have been addressed, and the lack of engagement by our partners therein."
While welcoming what it called the new proposals to break the impasse, the Group said: "We should however also bear in mind that there are also older proposals touching on development submitted earlier and still lying on the table un-discussed. We ask that due recognition be given to such proposals. Furthermore, all our past submitted proposals remain on the table and must be discussed together with the new proposals."
[It was not clear from
the text of
The African Group stressed
once again that for Africa, development outcomes in each of the negotiating
areas remain the main priority of the Round and
"We agree with the conclusion of Director General Lamy ‘s report that there is a fundamental gap in expectations among key Members, but this fundamental gap is not, in our view, limited to NAMA. We do not agree with the suggestion in the report that if we could work out our differences in NAMA, then other areas of the negotiations would simply fall into place. As we pointed out at the last TNC meeting, fundamental differences also exist with respect to agriculture and services," said Ambassador Punke.
The Director General's
report suggests that the issues that divide us on NAMA are political,
not technical or procedural. "We agree with this assessment, but
we also believe the same is true of agriculture and services. Beyond
market access issues, the Chairs' documents also provide a fairly clear
picture of the broader situation in our
For instance, said
But this negotiation
will set the terms of trade for decades to come and an agreement that
does not reflect 21st century realities will contribute neither to the
strength of the global trading system nor to the long-term viability
of this institution. "Despite the difficulties, the
According to trade
Noting that the Director-General was right that "business as usual" will not work and that "stop and reboot" will not work, either, China also referred to the WTO head having pointed out in his report that, "the issues to be addressed in any new Round would necessarily bring us back to the issue which is blocking progress today."
"Should we go
down that path, it would simply mean a waste of another 10 years,"
"We should also
consider delivering some issues that are closely related to development.
Some Members have been talking about 'early agreement and implementation'
for quite some time, especially on issues of interest to the LDCs. We
believe that this is a fair and reasonable appeal as presented just
According to trade
India said it stands fully committed to bringing the Round to a successful conclusion and in this context, referred to the relevant part of the Hainan Declaration of 13 April 2011 of the leaders of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries that said: "Brazil, China, India and South Africa remain committed and call upon other members to support a strong, open, rule-based multilateral trading system embodied in the World Trade Organisation and a successful, comprehensive and balanced conclusion of the Doha Development Round, built on the progress already made and consistent with its development mandate."
"While all of us strive in the weeks and months ahead to resolve the deadlock on NAMA Sectorals and the other outstanding issues, we need to constantly remind ourselves that this Round is the only Round in the last seven decades that has been specially designated as a Development Round with the professed aim to bring the benefits of globalisation and international trade within reach of the developing countries so that they can successfully tackle the challenges of poverty, unemployment and growth. In this regard, we do feel very disappointed when we note the attempt to shift the discourse from development to purely mercantilist issues, most of them having scant relevance for developing countries."
India said it fully shared the Director-General's views that allowing a gradual drift in the process or renegotiating the mandate at this late stage or continuing with business as usual are not feasible options to bring the Round to a successful conclusion by end 2011. "We must, therefore, collectively think of all options and alternative paths to reach our objective of concluding the Round- whether at one go or in a phased manner." It noted that members all need to be mindful of the twin deadlines that they have set for themselves, of July 2011 for the conclusion of the text-based negotiations and of mid-December 2011, when they have scheduled their next Ministerial meeting.
"In this context, I would like to mention the many outstanding implementation issues of the Uruguay Round which represent unfinished business, and which were very much alive till the Cancun Ministerial meeting but are under threat of falling through the cracks unless they are given due attention. I hope that these issues receive the attention that they so richly deserve, because that would provide a re-affirmation of the commitment of the whole membership to the development mandate of the Doha Round," said Ambassador Dasgupta.
That said, however,
the G33 said it is deeply concerned at the lack of progress in the
"We believe that failure to conclude the Round will be very costly and detrimental not only to the development interests of most of the member countries, but also to the credibility of the multilateral trading system as a whole," the G33 added. +