Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec12/07)
19 December 2012
Third World Network
Formal TNC hears views on the work towards MC9
Published in SUNS #7499 dated 12 December 2012
Geneva, 11 Dec (Kanaga Raja) - A formal meeting of the WTO Trade Negotiations
Committee (TNC) on 7 December heard a number of members urging the
need to make progress in the Doha negotiations and for some results
to be delivered by, or at, the ninth ministerial conference (MC9)
due to take place in Bali, Indonesia next December.
These views from delegations came in their statements following a
report by the Chair of the TNC, Pascal Lamy, who is also the Director-General,
as well as reports by the Chairs of the various negotiating bodies
under the TNC.
According to trade officials, what is now emerging is that delegations
are beginning to express hope that the time between now and MC9 in
Bali (to be held in the first week of December 2013) will be used
to produce an outcome of results for or at Bali. There is a clear
understanding that another stocktaking (or housekeeping) ministerial
conference will not cut it.
Among the possible "doable" issues, trade officials added,
are trade facilitation, agriculture and development-related issues.
In his statement at the TNC, Director-General Lamy noted that the
last informal TNC took place over one year ago in October 2011, and
more than two years have passed since the last formal session in March
"Today's meeting is also timely because it is the half-way mark
of the period between MC8 and MC9. The guidance provided by Ministers
at last year's conference remains the road-map which will guide us
to Bali and we have a collective responsibility to ensure that we
all work towards clearly identifying where Members' interests lie,
and recognizing which areas can be realistically considered short-term
deliverables and which areas require further work to ensure a successful
and balanced outcome."
Updating members on his recent contacts and meetings, Lamy said that
the message that he took away from all of these high-level meetings
was "a continuing strong support for the multilateral trading
system and an overwhelming recognition of the importance of strengthening
multilateral trade rules to limit protectionism and restore sustained
levels of global trade growth."
"If I had to summarise in one sentence what I heard, I would
say that Members remain committed to re-energising the WTO talks in
a pragmatic and practical manner and to ensuring that 2013 is a productive
year for the Organization," he added.
Lamy then gave the floor to the Chairs of the various negotiating
bodies under the TNC to present their progress reports.
Following the reports by the Chairs of the negotiating groups, Lamy
said that the work since January has been guided by the course of
action set out at MC8, where Ministers acknowledged that the DDA (Doha
Development Agenda) could not be delivered as expected in the near
future and that "we need to more fully explore different negotiating
approaches and advance negotiations where progress could be achieved."
He added: "MC8 left us with a long to-do list. Our work in 2012
has been devoted to preparing the ground for the follow-up to the
Ministerial guidance. Early on, you have engaged - both formally and
informally - in trying to advance areas of interest to your delegations.
Despite a slow start, negotiating activities picked up in the second
half of the year. At the General Council meeting on 3 October, we
noted encouraging signs of re-engagement with the emergence of a basket
of issues on which consensus could be achieved in the short-term,
and agreed that it was time to seriously engage in bridging the gaps
"We have just heard about the work that is on-going in each group.
It obviously shows a diverse picture. Some areas show little activity,
but there is progress on trade facilitation, on some agriculture items,
on Special and Differential Treatment, including LDC matters, as well
as on Dispute Settlement... I am firmly convinced that such engagement,
along with some creativity, is the key to further progress early next
In moving forward, Lamy said, "we have to make sure that, during
the first quarter of 2013, this momentum and renewed sense of engagement
is translated into concrete proposals. Our credibility - your credibility
- in the next phase will depend on our ability - your ability - to
make tangible progress on specific issues as they mature."
The TNC Chair went on to highlight his own views about "the immediate
next steps" that members can take "to develop a collective
vision for the 2013 deliverables."
"The activities of 2012 have contributed to build some momentum.
You have put on your negotiating caps again. And we cannot afford
to lose this momentum. We must build on it. This requires us to step
up our engagement and act in a timely and responsible manner to ensure
that all proposals are given the right level of attention. For this
to take place, together we need to make sure that proposals are put
on the table in good time, to allow for discussions and for the regular
process to take place.
"In other words, we must avoid introducing last-minute proposals
that have not been discussed in the appropriate bodies first. We need
to go back to our well known principle of ‘no surprises'. Any kind
of Christmas-tree syndrome as we get closer to MC9 would have destabilizing
effects on the entire process, probably jeopardize the Ministerial
Conference itself and, hence, dent the credibility of the WTO. I want
to make clear that the Negotiating Bodies are the starting point for
any proposal to be considered by the membership."
To ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible and to avoid
any surprises, there is need to stick to a few simple guidelines,
"First, we need to work towards what is reasonably doable. Members
should be realistic in their demands, take into account other Members'
red lines and stay clear of what are known to be unattainable objectives.
Second, when advancing a proposal, it is the proponents' responsibility
to build consensus around it. Make sure that you are working towards
convincing the other Members, not yourselves. Third, avoid being confrontational.
Any proposal should not be framed as a kind of take-it-or-leave-it
position. The negotiating process entails a trade-off between concessions
and demands. Be flexible and work together with other Members and
around their sensitivities to achieve a common understanding."
Lamy said: "Without setting new and unworkable deadlines, MC9
provides us with an opportunity to show that WTO Members can advance
the negotiating front of the WTO agenda. Of course, we should be under
no illusion about the breadth of what we can achieve in the short
timeframe between now and MC9. Nor should we create unrealistic expectations.
The main stumbling blocks of the DDA are still standing and many of
the toughest nuts will likely not be cracked by the time Ministers
meet in Bali."
"But although we must manage expectations and keep ambitions
in check for Bali, we cannot fall short of delivering on a credible
basket of issues that would signal your confidence that the rest of
the Doha agenda can be addressed in due course," he added.
The TNC Chair concluded: "There are encouraging signs showing
that there is overall interest and willingness to engage on preparing
negotiating deliverables for 2013. The needed impetus to push the
talks forward and translate them into action can come from any front.
We should leave no stone unturned. But we should also not wait for
the last minute to engage. Recent engagement must be switched to a
higher gear. One more housekeeping Ministerial Conference in Bali
would not suffice to keep the Doha house alive."
A number of delegations spoke following the reports by the TNC Chair
and the various negotiating group Chairs.
According to trade officials, Mauritius (on behalf of the African,
Caribbean and Pacific Group) said that progress has been uneven. While
in some areas members are back in business, there is an unevenness,
which is not surprising given that the guidelines from MC8 is to make
progress where we can. "We will have to make progress and get
some results by Bali in order to be credible. We can't be in a situation
where we come back and simply repeat the same guidelines from MC8,"
There are several key issues that should be taken into account as
we proceed. We need to focus on what is doable, and we need to have
good faith in the process in the next few months, said Mauritius,
adding that we should not attach unachievable conditionalities to
any proposals. We should try to work to create balance.
There needs to be some things that are meaningful for developing countries,
particularly for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and one of
the key issues would be the group of LDC-specific issues that were
agreed in principle at MC8 but which have yet to be delivered (LDC
waiver for services, commitment to provide greater market access to
LDC services providers and extension of the LDC exemption from the
TRIPS Agreement). The precise guidelines on these issues remain outstanding,
On the issues of global value chains and non-tariff barriers (NTBs),
it said that this is something that is of great importance to developing
countries and we should as part of the work programme that comes out
of MC9, see if we can produce some kind of work on NTBs and development.
A coherent approach is needed to address these issues.
Indonesia (on behalf of the G-33), while welcoming the increased engagement
by members, was of the view that agriculture needs to be at the heart
of the Doha Development Round. There are elements of agriculture that
are doable by MC9, and they need to be addressed. Food security and
livelihood security are primary issues for developing countries, and
we need to deliver on the Doha-2001 and Hong Kong-2005 mandates in
Speaking for itself, Indonesia said that Bali will be an important
landmark and MC9 should not simply be a housekeeping exercise. It
hoped that a breakthrough can emerge from this important gathering.
It encouraged the key players to step up and show leadership.
Brazil (on behalf of the G-20) spoke on the G-20 proposals on tariff
rate quota (TRQ) administration, saying that they are a real effort
to try and spark the discussions. It was pleased that all delegates
had shown a willingness to try and explore these issues further.
On the G-20 proposal on TRQ administration, it took some comfort from
the fact that the complaints from both the exporters and importers
came in a somewhat equal measure, which shows that it was a balanced
proposal. This proposal would not require changes in any market access
commitments but would ensure that the administration of TRQs does
not become a hindrance to international trade. On the question of
export competition, it hoped that the terms of the Hong Kong Ministerial
Declaration (of 2005) could be delivered in terms of eliminating the
Switzerland (on behalf of the G-10) said that it was happy to contribute
to a successful conclusion, and that there is need for balance between
ambition and member-specific domestic situations. It is ready to engage.
Speaking for itself, Switzerland said that the WTO does level the
playing field. There is need to go step-by-step and Bali is not the
end. We must make Bali a place where we can deliver an outcome. There
is need to focus on what is really doable. There must be a balance
found and we cannot have an agreement that focuses primarily on agriculture,
Australia (on behalf of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters)
said that it was encouraged by the G-20 proposals. It was still considering
the G-33 proposal on food stock-holding. It is important to bring
proposals forward as soon as possible, and agriculture is the right
place to start.
On behalf of itself, Australia said that it was encouraged by what
it has seen up to now. There has been a significant change in the
discussion since the beginning part of the year, as well as a change
in the atmosphere, which is most welcome. The proposals are being
pitched so far at the right level. They are realistic and doable.
Haiti (on behalf of the LDCs) said that what it would like to see
is special and differential treatment (S&D) for LDCs, mentioning
in this respect the extension of exemption of the LDCs from the TRIPS
Agreement, duty-free quota-free market access (DFQF) for LDC products,
cotton, food security and the need to ensure that trade-related technical
assistance and capacity-building (TACB) is being delivered in an effective
Cambodia (on behalf of ASEAN) said that it is concerned that the progress
on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) remains slow, and that 2012 was
less productive than it had hoped for. But it is nonetheless confident
that members will achieve an early harvest in Bali, which would have
some meaningful elements. It mentioned the 28 agreement-specific proposals,
the G-20 proposals on TRQ administration, the need for export subsidies
to be eliminated, food security and DFQF. There is need to work on
other elements as well to prepare a work programme after Bali for
future ministerial conferences.
Chinese Taipei (on behalf of the recently-acceded members) mentioned
the importance of progress in trade facilitation and review of the
dispute settlement understanding, on key development issues and TRQ
administration. The recently-acceded members have made extremely ambitious
commitments to the WTO and the special needs of these countries must
continue to be taken into account in the Doha negotiations.
China said that despite the disappointingly slow progress during the
first half of this year, it feels encouraged recently to witness some
tangible movements and most-needed political will that seems to surface
for the deliverables by MC9 in 2013. Members have been working very
hard, at both ambassadorial and technical level, to identify the scope
of a small package of deliverables. As several Members have mentioned,
it seems that trade facilitation, S&D and some agricultural issues
are potential candidates.
China stressed that it firmly stands behind this initiative to achieve
credible deliverables at MC9 and the full conclusion of the DDA in
the long run. "Up to now, China has not tabled our own requests.
On the contrary, we have demonstrated maximum flexibilities to engage
with other Members and to facilitate the negotiating process, including
on the sensitive issue of agriculture."
On the long-term perspective, China reiterated its firm belief that
a small package of deliverables is only the first stop of the entire
journey. In any case, it shall neither be the only harvest nor the
end of the Doha Round. It sincerely hoped that all Members share this
spirit and exert equal efforts towards the same direction.
"Therefore, it is of paramount importance for our ministers to
make a collective commitment at MC9 that we will continue our negotiations
on the remaining issues and achieve the full conclusion of the single
undertaking when the political and economic atmosphere is ripe."
Argentina supported the G-20 statement, and said the trade facilitation
group is the only one making progress because they are the only ones
meeting regularly. But an agreement on trade facilitation would not
in of itself be balanced. "We must make sure that we bring development
issues into the mix. With respect to the discussion of section II
of trade facilitation (pertaining to S&D), this lags behind section
Welcoming the G-20 proposal on agriculture, Argentina said there can
be no early harvest in trade facilitation without agreement in areas
of interest to developing countries.
The European Union said that the bottom-up and step-by-step approach
has been the appropriate way to move forward and as a result progress
has been seen on the (S&D) monitoring mechanism, the 28 agreement-specific
proposals, LDC issues, dispute settlement understanding, trade facilitation,
and certain elements in agriculture. Perhaps with an enhanced Information
Technology Agreement (ITA), this is where deliverables could come
There is need to address political elements in trade facilitation,
specifically pertaining to S&D, it said, adding that this is key.
The new proposals put forward in agriculture need to be discussed.
It welcomed these proposals, but no one should be fooled into thinking
that on these or other proposals, there are not limits to what can
be done. On LDC issues, it said that this is very high on the EU agenda,
and we must go forward with proposals for the LDCs that are acceptable
to all. There is need to keep expectations and demands at reasonable
levels and the need to see that a successful outcome in Bali is just
a first step.
Pakistan said that there has been a renewed vigour in the negotiations
and this is welcome. The new proposals in agriculture and the tangible
progress in the monitoring mechanism and the 28 agreement-specific
proposals in the development group is important. The square brackets
in the trade facilitation text have been reduced. There are further
suggestions that we could deliver something on issues of concern to
LDCs. There is need to develop convergence on a work programme following
MC9. It supported the agriculture proposals coming from the G-20 and
Jamaica supported the G-33 and ACP statements.
Japan said that economic recovery is on a fragile track and trade
has a major role to play in facilitating growth and employment. We
have a real challenge to the WTO's role in the multilateral system.
There is need to ensure that trade facilitation advances sufficiently
enough in the lead-up to MC9 so that an agreement is possible. Trade
facilitation is a win-win proposition and it is gradually being recognised
by many developing countries, and that with the evolution of global
value chains and with many links of these chains being located in
developing countries, it is by no means the case that only developed
countries will benefit, but that developing countries will benefit
too from a trade facilitation agreement.
Colombia agreed with the Cairns Group. It is very satisfied with the
G-20 proposals on agriculture. It has seen progress on trade facilitation,
saying that there is need to step up the work in section II on S&D.
All countries in the WTO would benefit from a trade facilitation deal.
The WTO will in the coming months need a horizontal process as a means
of assessing where members are across all the issues under discussion.
According to trade officials, India said that there has been significant
progress in three areas - trade facilitation, agriculture and development.
It associated itself with the G-20 and G-33 statements. There are
only 150 working days before Bali and the membership must be reassured
that MC9 would not be the end of the road for Doha but a stop along
that road. While specific proposals on trade facilitation, agriculture
and development issues are perhaps a set of deliverables, there are
other issues that need to be looked at too, particularly those for
The United States noted that there are fewer than 12 months at members'
disposal. Bali is not a deadline but a milestone. It will mark a moment
where we and the outside world take stock of our work and of the health
of the multilateral trading system. If we go to Bali and we have done
nothing since MC8, we should not delude ourselves into thinking about
what the world will then think about the Doha negotiations, it said.
The US does not believe that an early harvest is the end of the road
for the Doha Round. There is a growing perception that the WTO may
not be an effective forum for trade negotiations. It is vitally important
that this perception does not become the reality.
On trade facilitation, the US said it is an area where progress should
be pursued vigorously. It was of the view that a trade facilitation
agreement is like having a healthy circulatory system. It helps to
clear blockages that are the economic equivalent of arteriosclerosis.
It has heard carefully to what the developing countries have said
about S&D and on trade facilitation.
The G-20 TRQ administration proposal is not perfect but it has obviously
been calibrated and seeks to solve an important problem. But it does
offer significant benefits without affecting in any significant way
the balance of benefits and obligations to members. Its scale fits
the current short-term negotiating context and it seems to pass the
test of doeability, said the US.
On the other hand, there are real questions about the scale and doeability
of the recent food stockpiling proposal (by the G-33). These questions
are creating new concerns about what we can collectively achieve by
Bali, said the US, adding that it is still hopeful that this proposal
might be re-scaled into something appropriate for today's negotiating
It said the US cannot go down the path of opening a brand-new WTO-authorised
open-ended carve-out of agricultural subsidy programmes. It also wanted
to make it clear that taking an action in the name of food security
for some should not be something that undermines the food security
Nepal endorsed the LDC statement (made by Haiti).
Korea said that there is need for a horizontal process, and agreed
with the G-10 and G-33 statements vis-a-vis agriculture. There is
need to follow the guidelines from MC8, and the need not to write-off
in the future the single undertaking.
Bolivia said that it did not see any benefits in trade facilitation
for developing countries. This is not a stand-alone issue, it added.
Bangladesh said that there is no real progress in the Doha negotiations,
and it does not appreciate the selective focus. It wondered why DFQF
for the LDCs has not been given more attention. It does not understand
why it is that a single developed country has been unable to implement
the decision taken in Hong Kong on the 2013 deadline for opening the
market to LDC exports.
Barbados said that an outcome is important in Bali, but it has to
be balanced and have a development focus. A trade facilitation agreement
cannot lead to a deterioration in trade balances.
Singapore called for a non-confrontational code of conduct in the
negotiations. It encouraged all stakeholders to make pragmatic proposals.
Norway was encouraged by the fact that members have had proposals
on the table. It is a sign that members want to make tangible progress.
It wants to see that any proposal that comes forward be one that has
a probable potential outcome. It wants members to be realistic but
we also need to deliver in Bali, it added.
Kenya supported the ACP and G-33 statements. It called for S&D
in trade facilitation.