Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec11/16)
22 December 2011
Third World Network
Chairman's Concluding Statement at MC8
Published in SUNS #7285 dated 20 December 2011
19 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- The eighth Ministerial Conference (MC8) of the
World Trade Organization (WTO) wrapped up on 17 December night, after
adopting seven draft decisions, approving the accessions of Russia,
Samoa and Montenegro and a Concluding Statement by the Chairman of the
conference, Nigerian Minister Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga of Nigeria.
In his Concluding Statement (WT/MIN(11)/11), the Chair of MC8 said that
the first part (of his two-part statement) represents "Elements
for Political Guidance" which emerged from the preparatory process.
These Elements were the subject of consensus in the General Council,
and they were circulated in document WT/MIN(11)/W/2, he added.
"As the General Council Chairman has already assured Members, I
wish to reiterate that nothing in this text re-interprets or changes
any WTO rules or agreements or prejudices any Member's rights and obligations.
In particular, the Doha mandate remains as formally agreed by Members
in its entirety and neither the consensus Elements for Political Guidance
in Part I, nor the non-exhaustive summary in Part II of this statement,
change or reinterpret it. Neither the Elements nor my summary are legally
binding," he further said.
He said that "Part II is my summary, under my own responsibility,
of the main points which have emerged from the discussions over the
past two and a half days. I have also taken into account declarations
and written statements submitted by Members. The summary is not exhaustive
but I hope that I have captured the key issues."
The following is the text of the Chairman's Concluding Statement at
"ELEMENTS FOR POLITICAL GUIDANCE
"Importance of the Multilateral Trading System and the WTO
"Ministers emphasize the value of the rules-based multilateral
trading system and agree to strengthen it and make it more responsive
to the needs of Members, especially in the current challenging global
economic environment, in order to stimulate economic growth, employment
"Ministers underscore that the WTO's role in keeping markets open
is particularly critical in light of the challenging global economic
environment. The WTO has a vital role to play in the fight against all
forms of protectionism and in promoting economic growth and development.
Ministers also acknowledge that experience has shown that protectionism
tends to deepen global economic downturns. Ministers fully recognize
WTO rights and obligations of Members and affirm their commitment to
firmly resist protectionism in all its forms.
"Ministers underline the importance of the work of regular WTO
bodies including their role in the oversight of implementing existing
Agreements; dispute avoidance; transparency through monitoring and reporting
and as a forum for the consideration of trade-related issues raised
by Members. Ministers call for strengthening and improving their functioning.
"Ministers recognize the important asset that the WTO Dispute Settlement
system represents and commit themselves to strengthen it, including
through concluding the DSU review negotiations.
"Ministers welcome the accessions of Vanuatu, Samoa, the Russian
Federation and Montenegro to the WTO and recognize the contribution
of accession to strengthening the multilateral trading system. Ministers
remain committed to efforts to facilitate accessions, in particular
of least-developed countries (LDCs).
"Trade and Development
"Ministers reaffirm that development is a core element of the WTO's
work. They also reaffirm the positive link between trade and development
and call for focused work in the Committee on Trade and Development
(CTD) which is to conduct this work in accordance with its mandate and
report the results achieved to Ministers at the Ninth Session. Ministers
call on WTO Members to fully operationalize the mandate of the CTD as
a focal point for development work.
"Ministers reaffirm the need for the WTO to assist in further integrating
developing countries, particularly LDCs and, without creating a sub-category
of WTO Members, small, vulnerable economies, into the multilateral trading
"Ministers acknowledge the needs of LDCs and commit themselves
to ensure that LDCs' interests are given due priority in the future
work of the WTO. In this regard, they have taken decisions concerning
LDC accession in document WT/COMTD/LDC/19, extension of the LDC transition
period under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement in document IP/C/59/Add.
2, and LDCs services waiver in document TN/S/37. Ministers also urge
the full implementation of Decision 36 of Annex F of the Hong Kong Ministerial
Declaration of 2005 on measures in favour of LDCs. Ministers also welcome
the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs for the decade 2011-2020.
"Ministers confirm their commitment to on-going dialogue and engagement
to progress the mandate in paragraph 11 of the Hong Kong Ministerial
Declaration to address cotton ‘ambitiously, expeditiously and specifically',
within the agriculture negotiations. Ministers highlight the value of
on-going reporting on cotton, and invite the Director-General to continue
furnishing periodic reports on the development assistance aspects of
cotton to each Ministerial Conference. Ministers commend the work being
undertaken within the Director-General's Consultative Process to advance
developmental assistance aspects of cotton.
"Ministers reaffirm the integrality of special and differential
treatment provisions to the WTO agreements and their determination to
fulfil the Doha mandate to review them with a view to strengthening
them and making them more precise, effective and operational. Ministers
agree to expedite work towards finalizing the Monitoring Mechanism for
special and differential treatment. They also agree to take stock of
the 28 Agreement-specific proposals in Annex C of the draft Cancun text
with a view to formal adoption of those agreed.
"Ministers take note of the progress achieved on Aid for Trade
and of the Third Global Aid for Trade Review. They agree to maintain,
beyond 2011, Aid for Trade levels that at least reflect the average
of the period 2006-2008 and to work with development banks to ensure
the availability of trade finance to low income countries. Ministers
reiterate their commitment to funding the WTO Global Trust Fund in a
predictable and timely manner to enable the Secretariat to continue
to provide the Technical Assistance and Capacity Building required.
"Ministers acknowledge the WTO's co-operation with other development-related
organizations, in particular, the International Trade Centre (ITC).
Ministers reaffirm the ITC's role in improving and enhancing trade support
institutions and policies for the benefit of exporting efforts; and
in strengthening the export capacity of enterprises to respond to market
opportunities. Ministers encourage the ITC to support and assist developing
countries to address business environment and market access issues affecting
the private sector.
"Doha Development Agenda
"Ministers deeply regret that, despite full engagement and intensified
efforts to conclude the Doha Development Agenda single undertaking since
the last Ministerial Conference, the negotiations are at an impasse.
"Ministers acknowledge that there are significantly different perspectives
on the possible results that Members can achieve in certain areas of
the single undertaking. In this context, it is unlikely that all elements
of the Doha Development Round could be concluded simultaneously in the
"Despite this situation, Ministers remain committed to work actively,
in a transparent and inclusive manner, towards a successful multilateral
conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda in accordance with its mandate.
"In order to achieve this end and to facilitate swifter progress,
Ministers recognize that Members need to more fully explore different
negotiating approaches while respecting the principles of transparency
"In this context, Ministers commit to advance negotiations, where
progress can be achieved, including focusing on the elements of the
Doha Declaration that allow Members to reach provisional or definitive
agreements based on consensus earlier than the full conclusion of the
"Ministers also stress that they will intensify their efforts to
look into ways that may allow Members to overcome the most critical
and fundamental stalemates in the areas where multilateral convergence
has proven to be especially challenging.
"Ministers maintain that, in their negotiations, they will continue
their work based on the progress already made. Ministers affirm that
any agreements reached, at any time, have to respect fully the development
component of the mandate.
"SUMMARY OF KEY ISSUES RAISED IN THE DISCUSSIONS
"Keeping markets open and resisting protectionism
"Ministers highlighted the importance of keeping markets open and
the need to resist protectionism particularly in this challenging global
economic environment. Many Ministers sought a stronger message against
protectionism, stating that the prevailing economic climate had made
it all the more essential. In this regard, they urged Members to commit
to a standstill on all forms of protectionism; to roll back any protectionist
measures that had been introduced during the crisis; to not introduce
new protectionist measures while the Doha negotiations were on-going;
and, to exercise maximum restraint in implementing measures that may
be WTO-consistent but have a significant protectionist effect. The need
for a regular monitoring mechanism was highlighted, including through
reinforcing the Trade Policy Review Body. Many Ministers welcomed the
Director-General's monitoring reports on recent trade developments.
"Other Ministers said that the rules-based nature of the WTO system
with its rights and obligations needed to be taken into account. Development
aspects also needed to be considered. They stressed that in these challenging
times, the right of Members to use existing WTO-consistent policy space
to achieve economic and development objectives should not be curtailed.
Some Ministers also stressed that all forms of protectionism, not only
tariffs, should be considered in any commitment.
[One veteran trade observer noted that if, as in the opening paragraphs
of the Chairman's Concluding Statement, that the Chair had taken into
account the statements submitted by members and the various declarations,
then the "Other Ministers" is by a large majority more than
the "Many Ministers". But the WTO Secretariat, which usually
drafts or prepares these, "has resorted to usual linguistic gymnastics
to make it appear that the call for a standstill etc commands more support
than the assertion of the right to use existing WTO-consistent policy
space," the trade observer said. There were similar attempts in
other parts of the statement too, he added.]
"A number of Ministers expressed concern over the increase of protectionism
in agricultural trade in the form of trade-restrictive measures without
scientific or technical justification and not in conformity with the
SPS and TBT Agreements. Some Ministers also expressed concern with increasing
resort to private standards and food labelling requirements.
"It was suggested that a technical workshop on protectionism be
convened in 2012 to examine all aspects of the issue, with participation
by all relevant stakeholders.
"Ministers widely acknowledged that improving Members' compliance
with notification obligations would enhance transparency across WTO
bodies and help to discourage protectionism.
"Current global challenges
"A number of Ministers stressed that for the WTO to remain credible
and relevant it needed to address current global challenges. Some of
the issues mentioned in this discussion included climate change, energy,
food security, trade and exchange rates, competition and investment.
Some Ministers stated that it was time to explore these issues in WTO
regular bodies to enable the membership to improve understanding of
their implications for trade and development while continuing efforts
to seek a conclusion of the Doha Round.
"Other Ministers expressed reservations about initiating negotiations
on new issues. They were concerned about the possibility of addressing
issues selectively or shifting the focus away from unresolved issues
in the DDA negotiations. They stressed that any new issue should only
be brought to committees in accordance with their normal rules and procedures
and within their respective mandates.
"Some Ministers said that the WTO needed to pay more attention
to global value chains. In this regard, calls were made to build on
the Secretariat's recent ‘Made in the World' initiative.
"Some Ministers welcomed the decision of the Working Group on Trade,
Debt and Finance to convene a seminar on the relationship between exchange
rates and trade in the first quarter of 2012. Some Ministers also highlighted
the need for greater coherence between the WTO and other international
institutions, including the IMF.
"The central role of the dispute settlement system in ensuring
predictability and security of the multilateral trading system was stressed
by many Ministers. The need to improve DSU procedures and make the system
more accessible to least-developed countries and small, vulnerable economies
was stressed. In that regard, many Ministers urged the completion of
the DSU negotiations in 2012.
"There was wide convergence on the importance of accessions to
making the multilateral trading system truly universal. Ministers welcomed
the adoption of the decision further streamlining LDCs accessions and
urged its rapid operationalisation. Some Ministers drew attention to
the substantive and procedural challenges in the accession process for
other developing countries and urged streamlining of these processes
too, including not subjecting acceding countries to commitments beyond
their levels of development.
"Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs)
"A large number of Ministers pointed to the growing number of RTAs
and stressed the need to ensure that they remain complementary to, not
a substitute for, the multilateral trading system. In that regard, many
Ministers stressed the need for the WTO to address the systemic implications
of RTAs for the multilateral trading system and to study trends in RTAs
and report to the Ninth Ministerial Conference.
"The role of the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD)
"The importance of the development dimension of the WTO's work
was highlighted by a large number of Ministers, many of whom stressed
the need to strengthen the CTD as a focal point for development issues.
In that context, some Ministers suggested the full operationalization
of the CTD's mandate including the review and monitoring of special
and differential treatment provisions in the WTO. Others expressed support
for the finalization of the S&D Monitoring Mechanism and the adoption
of Annex C of the draft Cancun text. Other Ministers also suggested
that consideration should be given to outstanding implementation issues
in line with Paragraph 12 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration.
"Many Ministers urged WTO Members to commit to remove and not to
impose in the future, food export restrictions or extraordinary taxes
for food purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes by the World
Food Programme. Other Ministers stressed the importance of addressing
the root causes of food insecurity and underlined the importance of
allowing Members to use their rights under WTO Agreements.
"Some Ministers signalled their support for a proposal to establish
a work programme on trade-related responses to mitigate the impact of
food market prices and volatility, especially on LDCs and NFIDCs, for
action by the Ninth Ministerial Conference. Several Ministers noted
that the issue of food security was multi-faceted and needed to be looked
at in its entirety, including the impact of export restrictions on international
"Aid for Trade and the Enhanced Integrated Framework
"There was broad recognition of the importance of Aid for Trade
to build trade capacity and facilitate the integration of beneficiary
countries into the multilateral trading system. The specific role of
the Enhanced Integrated Framework for LDCs was underscored. Some Ministers
called for ensuring that Aid for Trade funding addresses the need of
developing counties, particularly the specific needs of small, vulnerable
economies and urged co-operation with other relevant institutions to
that effect. The importance of the regional dimension of Aid for Trade
and of trade finance were also highlighted.
"Doha Round negotiations
"Many Ministers expressed deep regret at the impasse currently
facing the Doha Round. They nevertheless reaffirmed their commitment
to delivering on the Doha mandate.
"On the work ahead, while a number of Ministers emphasised their
openness to different negotiating approaches, some expressed strong
reservations about plurilateral approaches.
"Many Ministers stressed the need for Members to start identifying
areas where provisional or definitive agreements could be reached in
the shorter term. Others indicated the need to move step by step, bottom-up,
to avoid repeating past failed attempts.
"Many Members stressed that any different approaches in the work
ahead should conform to the Doha mandate, respect the single undertaking,
and be truly multilateral, transparent and inclusive.
"In looking at future work, a large number of Ministers stressed
the centrality of development. Many underlined the need to give priority
to issues of interest to LDCs, including cotton. Many mentioned the
importance of all three pillars in the agriculture negotiations. Many
also mentioned trade facilitation, special and differential treatment,
S&D Monitoring Mechanism and non-tariff measures.
"There was a shared sense that a key question to unlock the current
impasse is the balance in contributions and responsibilities between
emerging and advanced economies, although there were different views
as to what the appropriate shares in this balance should be.
"Several Ministers emphasized the importance of a transparent,
inclusive and bottom-up approach in the work ahead while others stressed
the need to take account of all Members' views and avoid attributing
the views of a few to the whole membership."
Following the conclusion of his summary, the Chair said that he saw
this Ministerial as significant in three main ways. "Firstly, it
has produced some positive decisions - the accessions of Russia, Montenegro
and Samoa in particular, but also the Government Procurement Agreement
and the seven Decisions we have just adopted. Secondly, we have sent
a strong collective message that the WTO is more than ever important
to the world. And thirdly, we have seen constructive dialogue among
Ministers which has improved the WTO's atmosphere and outlook."
"It is essential that we do not let this improved political mood
dissipate. I believe the contacts among Ministers here have created
a promising basis for renewing the political dimension of the WTO in
a lasting way. I hope that informal dialogue among Ministers will continue
actively after this meeting, and I commit myself to do everything I
can to encourage that dialogue," said the Chair. +
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