Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jun13/02)
5 June 2013
Third World Network
on S&D lagging behind in TF talks, says South
Published in SUNS #7594 dated 30 May 2013
Geneva, 29 May (Kanaga Raja) -- An informal open-ended meeting of
the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation late last week saw developing
countries voicing concerns over special and differential treatment
(S&D), arguing that progress in this area is lagging behind the
other parts of the draft consolidated negotiating text on trade facilitation.
According to trade officials, the developing countries also called
for more balance in the trade facilitation (TF) negotiations.
The informal meeting on 24 May heard reports from the four "Friends
of the Chair" on their discussions during the week on a number
of issues in the negotiations.
The Friends of the Chair are Ambassadors Yonov Frederick Agah of Nigeria,
Mario Matus of Chile and Remigi Winzap of Switzerland, and Mr Michael
Stone of Hong Kong-China.
Trade officials said that "many delegations" commended the
good progress that was made during the week, including the deletion
of some 58 brackets from the draft text on trade facilitation.
However, these delegations cautioned that the negotiations need to
further intensify in order to produce a good text before the summer
break (in August) and for an agreement at the ninth ministerial conference
in Bali this December.
The informal meeting began with reports from the four Friends of the
Ambassador Winzap of Switzerland reported on Articles 6-9bis of the
draft text (relating to disciplines on fees and charges imposed on
or in connection with importation and exportation, release and clearance
of goods, consularisation, border agency cooperation, and declaration
of transhipped or in transit goods).
He said that delegations have made progress, including on penalty
disciplines (Article 6.2), use of electronic payment (Article 7.2),
post-clearance audit (Article 7.5) and timely release of goods (Article
Ambassador Agah of Nigeria said he had observed progress on a small
number of issues, including on temporary admission of goods (Article
10.11), single window (Article 10.5), and use of common procedures
(Article 10.8) and uniform documentation requirements (Article 10.9).
Ambassador Matus of Chile reported on Articles 1-3 (relating to publication
and availability of information, prior publication and consultation,
and advance rulings).
He said that progress was made on text related to enquiry points,
advance rulings and appeal procedures.
Mr Stone of Hong Kong-China, reporting on the issue of special and
differential treatment (Section II), said that 10 countries presented
their needs-assessment findings on trade facilitation, bringing to
41 the number of members that have undertaken such an exercise.
According to trade officials, Mr Stone said that the gaps that were
common in the presentations included lack of appropriate training,
policies, facilities and equipment.
He further said that donors also made presentations, and that many
countries interacted with them on possible technical assistance requirements,
adding that there was a small number of changes that he could propose
to the draft text.
According to trade officials, Egypt, however, suggested that the Negotiating
Group retain the current draft negotiating text (TN/TF/W/165/Rev.
15) in view of the recent submissions by the African, Caribbean and
Pacific (ACP) Group and the African Group (see below).
Egypt also questioned the linking of needs-assessment with the negotiations.
According to trade officials, India said that the Group has made very
significant progress since the last meeting with the deletion of 58
pairs of brackets, adding that this new momentum in the trade facilitation
negotiations should also move to the other areas of the Bali package.
[This was seen as a reference to the G-33 proposal on food security,
the latest G-20 proposal (in a non-paper) on ending agricultural export
subsidies, including cotton subsidies, in accord with the Hong Kong
Ministerial Declaration, and the transparency proposal on Tariff Rate
Quota administration, and the LDC waivers. In these areas, trade diplomats
said, the US and the EU are blocking any compromises and accords.]
India also said that progress on Section II (on special and differential
treatment provisions for developing country members and least-developed
country members) is lagging behind, and was afraid that this could
have an impact on the other parts of the text.
India called on the Group to redouble its meetings on Section II.
It proposed that texts under negotiations be projected on the screen
to facilitate drafting, and that the Secretariat provide records of
Switzerland said that a lot of good work had been made in the past
week but the 58 brackets that were removed do not even amount to 10%
of all the brackets (in the draft text), adding that one obstacle
is that many delegations are not in a position to negotiate.
On Egypt's comment on needs assessment, it said that as a donor country
on trade facilitation, it could not face parliament and justify its
It said that the level of S&D would depend on how binding the
agreement would be, adding that it saw a lot of flexibility during
the past week, but that this must be reciprocated.
According to trade officials, the US supported the statement by Switzerland,
adding that it had provided millions of dollars in trade facilitation
technical assistance to Egypt since 2009.
The EU also supported Switzerland, saying that the Group has a long
way to go, as significant brackets still remain to be removed. It
added that delegations should act like international negotiators and
not like divorce lawyers.
In the EU view, the agreement represents the most innovative technical
assistance programme ever envisaged in the WTO.
Canada also supported Switzerland, noting that it had just funded
a new technical assistance facility for African countries through
the African Development Bank.
Responding to the US, Egypt said that the US assistance has resulted
in a substantial increase in US exports to Egypt (but not to Egypt's
exports). It also urged more flexibility on Section II of the draft
According to trade officials, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Jamaica, Dominica,
Pakistan, Venezuela, Turkey, Ecuador, Mexico, Malaysia, Rwanda and
Morocco also called for more progress on Section II of the draft text
In concluding the meeting, the Chair, Ambassador Eduardo Ernesto Sperisen-Yurt
of Guatemala, said that the Group will continue to revise the draft
consolidated negotiating text based on this week's meeting.
According to trade officials, the Chair noted the support from delegations
for the process that was started in March, but warned that the current
rhythm would not put the Group on track for a Bali outcome.
Stressing the need to intensify the work and to show flexibility,
the Chair called on delegations to avoid discussions on the process
and to instead focus on substance, which he said holds the key to
further progress and to reaching the Bali objective.
He concluded that while progress had been made, the Group must speed
up its work and make compromises to strike a deal, adding however
that delegations are committed to negotiating constructively.
Trade officials said that as a result of the week's informal meeting,
the Group will be issuing Revision 16 of its draft consolidated negotiating
text. The next regular meeting of the Group will be in the week of
According to trade officials, at an informal meeting on 23 May afternoon,
chaired by Mr Stone of Hong Kong-China, two separate proposals by
the African Group and the ACP Group on Section II of the draft text
on trade facilitation were discussed.
According to the proposal from the African Group, the "modalities
of the negotiations affirm that the principle of special and differential
treatment (S&DT) for developing and least-developed countries
‘should extend beyond the granting of traditional transition periods
for implementing commitments'."
It added that the mandate recommends that S&DT provisions should
be precise, effective and operational in order to allow for necessary
flexibility in implementing the results of the negotiations.
In order to operationalise this mandate, said the African Group paper,
S&DT provisions of Section II has to be addressed through innovative,
comprehensive, and holistic approach.
In this context, an effective framework for S&DT should be clearly
articulated in the consolidated negotiating text.
This framework is envisaged to be premised on two pillars: (1) implementation
flexibilities that address the concerns of developing countries and
LDCs taking into consideration their actual implementation capacities;
(2) effective mechanisms for the provision of predictable, sustainable,
adequate, and responsive technical and financial assistance and capacity-building.
The Group argued that while the current consolidated negotiating text
includes provisions that address the first pillar relative to implementation
(differentiation of rules into distinct categories with different
implementation conditions, early warning mechanism, and grace period
for the application of dispute settlement rules), the second pillar
regarding technical and financial assistance still fall short of being
precise, effective, or operational.
"The negotiating text lacks the necessary mechanisms that ensure
the efficient, timely, and secure delivery of such assistance,"
It underscored that institutional and operational mechanisms should
be established with a view to guarantee the access of developing countries
and LDCs to secure an unconditional assistance that respond to their
needs and priorities.
While the institutional mechanism aims to undertake regular scrutiny
and review of the implementation of technical and financial assistance
provisions, the operational mechanism should guarantee the effective
and efficient flow of assistance from donors to beneficiaries, it
The Group said that its paper addresses only the institutional aspect
of the above mentioned mechanisms.
According to the African Group paper, the institutional mechanism
is envisaged as a built-in machinery of the Trade Facilitation Committee
(TF Committee) conducted in the form of dedicated sessions devoted
to review regularly all the implementation-related aspects of the
technical and financial assistance provisions.
Those dedicated sessions could help identify any difficulties related
to the implementation and the possible ways to overcome them. It is
suggested that the dedicated session be held, for one full day, directly
before the convening of the regular session of the TF Committee.
The dedicated sessions can be enabled to discuss the notifications
of the donor members regarding the availability of technical and financial
assistance and capacity building, with a view to address the assistance
from a holistic perspective. Moreover, the dedicated sessions can
act as a matchmaking mechanism between the members requesting assistance
and the donor members.
In order to ensure an effective outcome from the deliberations of
the dedicated sessions, the Group said that the possibility of making
recommendations should be provided, adding that the scope of those
recommendations will be limited to improve the implementation of the
relevant provisions and to enhance the effectiveness of the assistance.
"The dedicated sessions could allow for participation, as it
deems appropriate, from the donor community to present their projects
and explain how developing countries and LDCs can benefit from the
available assistance. Furthermore, the sessions can help provide the
opportunity for sharing experiences and act as a forum for constructive
discussion among donors and beneficiaries."
Simply, said the African Group, the dedicated sessions will provide
the necessary time and focus for the committee to review the progress
in the implementation of the technical and financial assistance and
capacity building provisions, and to ensure compliance.
"It is one step further toward achieving the general objective
of providing a demand-driven technical and financial assistance and
capacity building to developing countries and LDCs in the post-negotiations
phase. Complimentary efforts are needed to establish operational mechanism
that ensures the delivery and provision of timely and predictable
technical and financial assistance that should be adequate and responsive."
The African Group viewed that the proposed text of the institutional
mechanism can be placed in paragraph 8.4 of the negotiating text as
"8.4 The committee shall hold dedicated sessions in order to
review the implementation of the provisions related to technical and
financial assistance and capacity building. The committee shall make
recommendations, as appropriate, with a view to strengthening the
effectiveness of those provisions and to improving their implementation.
The dedicated sessions shall, inter alia, provide a framework for:
"a. Receiving requests for assistance from developing and least
developed country Members;
"b. Analysing the responses of the developed countries to the
requests for assistance from developing and least developed country
members referred to in Article 8.4 (a).
"c. Discussing and analysing the impact of the implemented programs
of assistance on satisfying the needs of the recipient countries.
"d. Discussing any problems regarding implementation of provisions
or sub-parts of provisions related to technical and financial assistance
and capacity building;
"e. Reviewing progress in the provision of technical assistance
and financial assistance and capacity building including any developing
or least developed country Members not receiving adequate technical
assistance and capacity building;
"f. Sharing experiences and information on on-going assistance
and implementation programs, including the relevant challenges.
"g. Reviewing and analysing donor notifications as set forth
in Article 9."
"h. Reflecting on the establishment of efficient, demand-driven
operational mechanism for the effective delivery of technical and
financial assistance and capacity-building to the developing and least
developed country members."
The ACP Group paper offers textual proposals on Section II of the
draft consolidated negotiating text on trade facilitation. +