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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec11/11)
20 December 2011
Third World Network


G-20, G-33 issue communiques for MC8
Published in SUNS #7283 dated 16 December 2011

Geneva, 15 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- Underscoring with concern that the continuation of the WTO trade reform process in agriculture is at an impasse, the ministers of the G-20 grouping at the World Trade Organization (WTO) underlined that agriculture is the centrepiece of the Doha Round and it must determine the general level of ambition within the overall negotiations.

In a ministerial declaration issued following their meeting here on 14 December, the G-20 ministers further underscored the need to preserve the 10 years of negotiating history, which reflects strenuously negotiated trade-offs and landing zones, if the Round is to be concluded any time soon.

"The discussion on possible deliverables must not result in abandoning the Doha mandate. In addition, the G-20 underscores that if members were to reach provisional or definitive agreements earlier than the full conclusion of the single undertaking, agricultural issues, across the three pillars of agricultural modalities, must be the priority," said the declaration.

In a separate communique, also issued on 14 December, the G-33 ministers expressed their deep concern over the impasse in the DDA negotiations for which they said a mere stop and restart is not a viable option.

The G-33 stressed that "any early harvest in areas where consensus arises, as provided by Paragraph 47 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration, must give priority to agricultural issues, and building on the progress already made in multilateral consensus-based decisions taken in a transparent and inclusive manner."

Both the G-20 and the G-33 groupings held their ministerial meetings just before the eighth WTO Ministerial Conference gets underway on 15 December afternoon.

At a media briefing following the G-20 Ministerial meeting, Brazil's Minister of External Relations Antonio Patriota, referring to the G-20 meeting, said that he sensed a very strong commitment with a balanced outcome to the Doha Round, with agriculture and development at its centre.

He added that what can be expected from the G-20 is a display of unity and of a commitment to the WTO, to the mandate under which we have been working, and also in a spirit of moving forward but not at any price - not at the price of compromising the G-20 objectives and the negotiated objectives for this round.

The economic crisis has had an impact in the developing world, especially in smaller developing economies and "we find that it is not justifiable or reasonable to look at formulas for moving forward that displace the emphasis on development, the emphasis on agriculture, which is where it should be," the Brazilian minister said.

In response to a question, he said that "we don't question the notion that the round must deliver on a number of fronts, including non-agricultural market access" and other items in accordance with the Doha mandate.

But "we must proceed on the basis of the progress that was achieved up to the texts of 2008 and not on... new approaches that are vague and don't really convey any sense of security that we will be proceeding along the mandated lines," he added. "So this is where I think we have to bridge a confidence gap in the coming months..."

In their declaration, the G-20 ministers said that recognizing the challenges brought by the current economic outlook, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the WTO trade regime and to the Doha Development Agenda (DDA).

They highlighted the increased importance of a well functioning rules-based multilateral trading system in times of uncertainty. "We underscore with concern that the continuation of the WTO trade reform process in agriculture is at an impasse and that the need for improving existing disciplines in agriculture remains unabated."

"In this regard, we recall the longstanding work and contributions of the G-20 for the agricultural negotiations of the Doha Round. Since its inception, in 2003, the G-20 has consistently voiced the need for the elimination of trade-distorting policies maintained by developed countries. It has also defended that results should live up to the development dimension of the Doha mandate."

The G-20 ministers noted with concern the current deadlock in the Doha Round. The DDA negotiations were launched with a clear mandate to address some of the challenges faced by developing countries, especially through the reform of agricultural disciplines, they added.

"Unfortunately, due to lack of progress in the Round, distortions caused by high levels of protection in agriculture, including subsides, continue to undermine the long-term development prospects of many developing countries, especially the least developed ones."

As a core element of its development dimension, the ministers underlined that agriculture is the center-piece of the Doha Round and that agriculture must determine the general level of ambition within the overall negotiations. "We also underscore the need to preserve the 10 years of negotiating history, which reflects strenuously negotiated trade-offs and landing zones, if the Round is to be concluded any time soon."

The G-20 ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the single undertaking and to a truly transparent and inclusive multilateral negotiating process. "The discussion on possible deliverables must not result in abandoning the Doha mandate. In addition, the G-20 underscores that if members were to reach provisional or definitive agreements earlier than the full conclusion of the single undertaking, agricultural issues, across the three pillars of agricultural modalities, must be the priority."

The ministers agreed that DDA outcomes related to agriculture which are of particular interest to the poorest countries, especially the LDCs - such as the full implementation of the Hong Kong mandate on export competition by the end of 2013, and on cotton - should be delivered as a priority.

They also underlined that highly-volatile international food commodity prices raise concerns in many developing countries and that delivering the Doha mandate on agriculture would play a positive role in addressing concerns related to food security.

The G-20 agreed to follow closely developments, especially in Washington and Brussels, related to reforming the Farm Bill and the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), with a focus on assessing their likely impact on developing countries.

"We express serious concern over the increase of protectionism in agricultural trade as a result of the adoption of measures without scientific or technical justification and not in line with the Agreements on Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures or on Technical Barriers to Trade.

"Such measures affect developing countries in a disproportionate way and constitute another unjustified trade barrier developing countries face in order to fully enjoy their market access rights under WTO disciplines."

The G-20 noted with concern the increasing resort, largely in developed countries, to private standards and food labeling requirements that are not in full conformity with the abovementioned WTO agreements.

Meanwhile, in their Ministerial Communique, the G-33 Ministers welcomed the
8th WTO Ministerial Conference as an important opportunity to renew the collective commitments of all WTO Members to a robust rules-based and predictable multilateral trading system, to development as a core element of the WTO's work, and to a successful multilateral conclusion of the DDA.

Noting the current global economic difficulties and challenges, the G-33 Ministers expressed their deep concern over the impasse in the DDA negotiations for which a mere stop and restart is not a viable option. "We reaffirm our commitment to a successful conclusion of the DDA negotiations."

"We strongly support respect for the principle of the single undertaking in achieving the Doha development mandate. We stress that any early harvest in areas where consensus arises, as provided by Paragraph 47 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration, must give priority to agricultural issues, and building on the progress already made in multilateral consensus-based decisions taken in a transparent and inclusive manner."

The G-33 Ministers emphasized that "the ongoing reform program in agriculture must lead, in the nearest possible future, to the elimination of distortions that have worked against the livelihood of hundreds of millions of poor farmers and the attainment of food security and rural development goals in the developing world. The G-33 believes that this issue must be part of the future work in 2012."

"We recall that Paragraph 13 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration requires that special and differential (S&D) treatment for developing countries in the agriculture negotiations must be 'operationally effective to enable developing countries to effectively take account of their development needs, including food security, livelihood security and rural development.' In this light, we underscore the importance of the Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism as essential elements of this S&D treatment," the G-33 communique said. +

 


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