TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr12/15)
25 April 2012
Third World Network

Negotiations begin, after strong plea by Supachai
Published in SUNS #7356 dated 24 April 2012

Doha, 23 Apr (TWN) -- The real work of UNCTAD XIII, which is negotiations to conclude the outcome document, started at an inaugural meeting of a Committee of the Whole (COW) on 22 April afternoon.

It was agreed that the negotiations will take place on two tracks, with a high-level group (comprising Ambassadors and senior officials from capitals) tackling difficult paragraphs in the draft text where differences are deeper, and the COW itself addressing the remaining paragraphs where differences are categorised as mild.

The two groups held their first meeting on 23 April morning.

The mood among delegates was mixed, with some being optimistic that an outcome was probable, while others felt the differences were difficult to bridge.

At the inaugural plenary meeting of the COW, UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi made a plea that there must be a UNCTAD XIII outcome document. He also called for retaining language to reaffirm the Accra Accord. "If we fail here, it will be perceived as the beginning of the end of the game, of this organisation," he said.

At the meeting, the Group of 77 and China and the regional groupings of developing countries presented a unified front. The G77 and China coordinator in the COW, the Thai ambassador in Geneva, reiterated the group's position that the Accra Accord must be reaffirmed and built upon. The April 13 statement of the G77 and China made in Geneva remains valid, and the concerns of the group remain. The issues of importance to the group include the financial crisis, global economic governance, technology transfer, IPRs, climate change, policy space, the role of the state, migration, the fight against unilateral measures, and the programme for Palestine.

The G77 and China said that most of these issues are already part of the mandate of UNCTAD from the conferences in Bangkok, Sao Paulo and Accra. Exclusion of these will re-define the UNCTAD mandate to a narrow confine. This means that the Accra Accord must be re-affirmed and we must build upon it. The G77 will engage in good faith and work towards the outcome document.

The G77 statement was supported by regional groupings (GRULAC, Africa Group, Asian Group) and the Least Developed Country group (which each also elaborated the concerns of the countries in the grouping) as well as by China, Cuba, South Africa, India, Morocco, Paraguay and others.

The European Union affirmed it was constructive and wanted a Doha accord based on partnership and that would be a solid basis for UNCTAD's work, and it was confident there would be an outcome in Doha.

However, the JUSCANZ grouping (that includes the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway) with Switzerland speaking, did not appear as accommodative as the EU. It said South-South trade was growing faster than North-South trade and UNCTAD should look at the impact of emerging economies on other developing countries.

It reiterated its position that UNCTAD XIII should build on the Accra Accord, and that the heart of UNCTAD's work should be promoting an enabling environment at national level.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi made an impassioned plea for the members to reach an agreed outcome, saying we are here not to discuss whether to reach an agreed outcome but how to do so.

Speaking of UNCTAD's role as the UN focal point for an integrated approach to development, he said that UNCTAD was here to bring countries and agencies to discuss the issues. If we fail here, after 50 years of existence, it is the beginning of the end of the game, of this organisation, said Supachai.

If the member states cannot give UNCTAD the sanction to do this, it is not possible for us to operate, he stressed.

Supachai said he had heard about the issue of having UNCTAD's role in the Accra Accord being reaffirmed, and he stressed that there is no question that this (reaffirmation) has to be retained. There should be no fear that UNCTAD would trespass on to issues that is not its role to do so, as this is not the record of UNCTAD's work. Due to the processes of setting the regular and supplementary budgets of UNCTAD, it was not possible to deviate in its work from what was agreed.

Supachai said UNCTAD was mandated to be the focal point in the UN for integrated treatment of trade and development and inter-related issues, and it remained true to its mandate, for example, by setting up the trade and productive capacity cluster (of agencies) in the UN.

He however stressed the need to analyse dynamic change, and UNCTAD had been ahead in doing this.

For example, UNCTAD cautioned about over-dependence on the export-oriented policy and today many are saying there must be balance between domestic demand and exports. UNCTAD had warned about speculative funds and the unregulated flow of capital. Ten years ago, it proposed the need to manage capital flows, and today the IMF was also addressing managing capital flows.

Supachai added that by all means countries could look at results-based delivery by multilateral institutions. However, UNCTAD's role is to bring countries and agencies to discuss the integrated development issues. If we fail here to agree on an outcome, it would be perceived to be the beginning of the end of the game, and of this organisation.

Supachai said he needed to plead with the countries, that we are not here to discuss whether to reach an agreed outcome, but instead to discuss how to reach the outcome. UNCTAD had walked this road with the member states for 48 years, and like a marriage there is a share of disappointments, but we have remained friends.

What he cared about was UNCTAD and the UN and their reputation. Although he understood that the issues may be complicated, "it is important that UNCTAD XIII has an outcome that strengthens our mandate so that we can serve you better."

The chair of the Committee of the Whole, Ambassador Maruping of Lesotho, said there is a commitment to have an outcome document here.

Recognising that it has been a very difficult process till now, he said "we can find solutions in the draft text and a solution to the outcome document is doable. We all want a strong UNCTAD and it is us who have to produce that document. Let's do it in the next few days." +