Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov13/01)
13 November 2013
Third World Network
Group calls for meaningful, balanced Bali outcome
Published in SUNS #7683 dated 28 October 2013
Geneva, 25 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- Trade Ministers of the African, Caribbean
and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, at their recent meeting in Brussels,
considered "a successful outcome in Bali with a clear commitment
to a post-Bali work programme that places development at its core"
to be of vital importance to their Member States and the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) as a whole.
This was highlighted in an ACP Ministerial Communique on the ninth
session of the WTO Ministerial Conference (taking place in Bali from
3-6 December 2013), issued following the ACP Ministerial meeting on
The communique (together with a declaration) has now been circulated
at the request of Jamaica on behalf of the ACP Group as part of the
documentation for the Bali meeting.
In their communique, the ACP Trade Ministers emphasised the importance
of securing a balanced and meaningful outcome in the areas under negotiation.
They urged all Members "to show the required flexibilities to
achieve consensus in the areas of Development, Least Developed Country
issues, Agriculture, and Trade Facilitation and ensure a balanced
outcome within and between these pillars."
The Communique came with an ACP Declaration on the ninth WTO Ministerial
Conference (MC9), which contains the ACP Group's position on various
[In terms of the ACP Group's position on the issues and items in the
Bali package, on the draft Trade Facilitation Agreement (that the
US and the EU are insisting as their minimum), the ACP Ministers'
meeting took note that all WTO Members have supported the core guiding
principles with respect to Section II of the draft consolidated text
that each developing and LDC Member will "self-designate"
the mandatory provisions of Section I of the draft consolidated text
that would be covered by the S&D provisions falling under each
category in Section II, and that they will "self-select"
their dates for implementation for each of the binding Section I provisions.
[Also, that adequate and effective external technical, financial and
capacity building assistance will be provided for in accordance with
the mandate in Annex D of the July 2004 Framework to help toward acquisition
of capacity to implement where required, and where a developing or
LDC Member has not acquired the capacity to implement and adequate
and effective assistance is not forthcoming, implementation is not
In the Declaration's preamble, the ACP Trade Ministers were concerned
that the continued inability of WTO Members, particularly developed
Members, to conclude the DDA (Doha Development Agenda) has contributed
to a proliferation of free trade agreements, and the pursuit of plurilateral
agreements in areas within the scope of the DDA.
They were further concerned that while regional or bilateral trade
arrangements in themselves can foster transparency and a rules-based
trading system, "unfettered plurilateral initiatives may weaken
the multilateral trading system".
The Minsters were also concerned "with the escalation of discriminatory
measures and non-tariff barriers on exports from ACP States, in particular
technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures,
and onerous private standards."
The ACP Ministers adopted a common position on several issues - in
the context of the forthcoming MC9 and thereafter - including on key
principles, on development and agriculture issues, on trade facilitation,
on accessions, on aid for trade, on some standing agenda item decisions
for MC9, and on the post-MC9 work programme.
On key principles, the Ministers underlined that the continued constructive
engagement of the ACP Group of States in the pursuit of a meaningful
outcome at the Ninth Ministerial Conference is predicated on the following
"(a) In furtherance of Ministers' charge at MC8 to advance DDA
negotiations where progress can be achieved, the elements Members
have identified for decision at MC9 in the areas of development, agriculture
and trade facilitation, and LDC issues must result in a meaningful
and balanced outcome, with the interests of developing country and
LDC Members as paramount;
"(b) An outcome for MC9 is a minimum package that sets the pace
for continued negotiations on all issues under the DDA, with special
focus and priority on the development dimension;
"(c) Progress on some issues earlier than others must be in keeping
47 of the Doha Declaration which provides that any early agreements
reached on a provisional or a definitive basis shall be taken into
account in assessing the overall balance of the negotiations;
"(d) The importance, after MC9, to preserve and build on progress
achieved so far in the DDA negotiations and negotiated flexibilities
in the draft modalities for agriculture (TN/AG/W/Rev. 4) and non-agricultural
goods market access
(TN/MA/W/103/Rev. 3) for the ACP Group of States, including LDCs and
SVEs [Small and Vulnerable Economies];
"(e) The successful completion of the Doha Round single undertaking
to deliver on its key development components for the ACP Group of
"(f) Decisions must be taken by consensus and include special
and differential treatment as a cornerstone for the effective participation
of developing countries and LDCs in the multilateral trading system;
"(g) Other WTO negotiations and work programmes must also ensure
meaningful development outcomes;
"(h) In addition to the provision of Aid for Trade, a firm understanding
that adequate predictable and effective financial, technical, and
capacity building programmes must be taken into account in the final
outcome of MC9, including trade facilitation. Such assistance should
be the key elements of the development dimension of the multilateral
trading system and should contribute to the enhancement of the supply
side capacity of ACP Group of States thereby contributing to their
integration into the multilateral trading system. This assistance
should also be in form of new funding, not existing bilateral assistance
that is diverted from other areas, and should be on a long term and
On development issues, the ACP Trade Ministers stressed that development
remains a critical dimension in the work of the WTO. Concluding the
DDA, which places development at the centre of its agenda, continues
to be a priority for ACP States.
They also said that special and differential treatment is an integral
part of WTO agreements and work programme.
"We are concerned about the slow progress in that work. We urge
WTO Members to advance discussions on special and differential treatment
in accordance with the Doha Declaration, in particular as set out
in paragraph 12.1 of the Decision on Implementation Related Issues
and Concerns and endorsed in paragraph 44 of the Ministerial Declaration."
The Ministers also noted that the commitment contained in paragraph
12 of the Doha Declaration to negotiate all outstanding implementation
issues as part of the single undertaking and find appropriate solutions
is yet to be fulfilled.
The development pillar for MC9, while exceedingly modest in its content,
is critical to any package for Bali. At MC8, it was decided to expedite
work toward finalising the Monitoring Mechanism for special and differential
treatment and take stock of the Agreement-specific proposals in Annex
C of the draft Cancun text with a view to formal adoption of those
The Ministers noted that work on the Monitoring Mechanism modalities
has advanced in the face of difficult and protracted discussions,
and called for expeditious conclusion of outstanding issues.
They welcomed the decisions taken at MC8 held in Geneva, granting
an LDC services waiver and the revision of the LDC guidelines on accession,
as well as decision taken since then in the relevant WTO bodies, to
extend the LDC TRIPS transition period pursuant to TRIPS Article 66.1
and operationalize the LDC Accession Decision.
The Ministers recognised the proposals put forward by the LDC Group
for the decision at the Ninth Ministerial Conference to advance a
consolidated LDC package covering duty-free quota-free market access
for LDC's, simplified and flexible rules of origin for exports that
qualify for duty-free, quota-free treatment, the operationalization
of the LDC services waiver, and outstanding proposals on cotton.
"In this regard, we urge WTO Members to reiterate their commitment
toward the greater integration of the LDCs into the multilateral trading
system and to take all possible steps towards realising this commitment
in line with the respective mandates on LDCs issues," they said.
They reiterated the importance of the Enhanced Integrated Framework
(EIF), and called on development partners to positively consider its
extension during the evaluation of the framework in 2015.
Recognizing the work that addresses concerns of SVEs in some negotiating
groups, the Ministers urged the WTO Membership to continue to address,
in a substantive and meaningful manner, the particular structural
disadvantages and inherent vulnerabilities of small, vulnerable economies.
"We reaffirm Paragraph 35 of the Doha Declaration and paragraph
41 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration and call for due regard
to be given to the priorities of SVEs in all areas of the negotiations
given their specific characteristics and problems and the need to
ensure their further integration into the multilateral trading system."
They reiterated that the WTO SVE work programme must deliver on flexibilities
for SVEs as part of any outcome to conclude the single undertaking.
Moreover, the work programme has revealed that non-tariff measures
could present significant challenges as SVEs, especially small island
nations in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, endeavour to improve
their export performance.
They reaffirmed the need for the WTO to address the particular problems,
challenges and needs of landlocked developing countries, SIDS (Small
Island Developing States) and low-lying coastal developing countries
through a work programme.
Regarding agriculture issues, the ACP Ministers acknowledged that
agriculture is of critical importance to the economies of the majority
of ACP Group of States, and reiterated that their main concerns are
related to: (i) market access (including preference erosion); (ii)
domestic support; (iii) export competition; (iv) cotton-sector issues;
(v) preserving the right to use certain traditional trade policy tools;
(vi) food security.
They took note of the proposals put forward in the areas of food security,
TRQ (Tariff Rate Quota) administration and export competition and
commit to full engagement in efforts to secure balanced and effective
outcomes in each area.
"We also support the adoption of a post-Bali work programme,
in all areas of the negotiations that can further the interests of
the ACP Group of States to address the imbalances in the WTO rules
on agriculture that weaken the capacity of ACP States to ensure their
own food security, taking fully into account the concerns of Net Food
Importing Countries (NFIDCs)."
On the issue of Trade Facilitation, the ACP Ministers reiterated the
importance attached to Trade Facilitation, and that while ACP States
are not the demandeurs of the Trade Facilitation initiative in the
WTO DDA negotiations, they recognised the potential benefits of multilaterally
agreed trade facilitation disciplines that allow for reforms and improvements
to their own systems and those of all Members.
"We therefore, remain positively engaged to reach a satisfactory
and balanced outcome for all parties in the current negotiations with
the aim to clarify and improve movement, release and clearance of
goods including goods in transit."
The Ministers reaffirmed the necessity to provide developing countries,
in particular LDCs, with the mandatory special & differential
treatment, and required technical, financial, and capacity building
assistance, enshrined in Annex D of the July 2004 Framework, and Annex
E of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration in December 2005 respectively.
They took note that all WTO Members have supported the core guiding
principles with respect to Section II of the draft Consolidated Text
(on S&D provisions and provision of technical assistance and capacity
(1) each developing and LDC Member will self-designate Section I provisions
falling under each category in Section II;
(2) each developing and LDC Member will self-select their dates for
implementation for each Section I provision that is binding;
(3) adequate and effective external technical, financial and capacity
building assistance will be provided for in accordance with the mandate
in Annex D to help toward acquisition of capacity to implement where
(4) in accordance with the mandate in Annex D of the July Framework,
where a developing or LDC Member has not acquired the capacity to
implement and adequate and effective assistance is not forthcoming,
implementation is not required; and
(5) the text will provide more flexibilities for LDC Members, which
should be made precise, effective, and operational.
In that regard, the Ministers welcomed the wide support of WTO Members
for the ACP proposals on Section II which have now become in large
part a basis for negotiations within the current draft consolidated
negotiating text, and urged all Members to exercise the necessary
flexibilities to bridge remaining differences.
They further reiterated that each individual ACP State must be satisfied
that it is capable of assuming the commitments and a balance within
Section I and between Section I and Section II must be achieved.
"All proponents of Section I disciplines should recognise the
need to ensure that their proposals are calibrated to accommodate
those differences in the systems of developing country and LDC Members
that make extremely difficult or impossible acceptance of certain
aspects of proposals being advanced."
To complement the framework for assuring the provision of technical,
financial, and/or capacity building assistance to enable acquisition
of capacity to implement the Section I provisions selected for Category
C, the Ministers urged Members "to take into account the importance
of establishing certain infrastructural requirements focused on our
Member States in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, without which
the full benefits of trade facilitation will not be quickly absorbed
by some Members, especially LDCs."
They therefore requested the WTO Director-General to accord due attention
to this issue in the elaboration of work between the WTO and relevant
international development bodies.
The ACP Ministers stressed that accessions are an important part of
the work of the WTO mandate, which must observe the same standards
agreed in the multilateral trading system.
"The ACP Group of States expresses concern over the cost and
slowness of WTO accession for its Members, particularly LDCs and SVEs.
With respect to non-LDC ACP Member States, the lack of any guarantee
as to their eligibility for special and differential treatment in
accession negotiations, is of particular concern."
The Ministers reaffirmed their full solidarity with all ACP countries,
particularly LDCs and SVEs that are in the WTO accession process,
and urged all WTO Members to facilitate and accelerate their accession.
Acceding ACP States should not be required to make concessions that
would constrain their level of development and go beyond current WTO
rules, they added.
They welcomed the adoption of the General Council's Decision of 25th
July 2012 on Accession of LDCs aimed at strengthening, streamlining
and operationalising the 2002 LDCs Accession Guidelines, pursuant
to the MC8 Decision.
In this regard, they urged the full implementation of all aspects
of the Decision by all WTO Members with due consideration to the specific
circumstances and development objectives of acceding LDCs.
With regard to non-LDC developing countries, the ACP Group of States
encouraged WTO Members to be guided by the following principles: (1)
each accession responds to the specific needs of each acceding government;
(2) There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach; (3) all WTO
Members and acceding governments should share the same objective of
a "win-win" agreement that benefits everyone and which reinforces
the disciplines of the Multilateral Trading System and promotes faster
and sustainable economic growth; and (4) consideration of flexibilities
for SVE acceding countries.
Regarding Aid for Trade, the Ministers welcomed the discussions in
the Global Reviews of Aid for Trade, saying that these have been useful
in highlighting how aid can assist the developing countries and LDCs
benefit from trade.
"We appreciate the effort of some donors to sustain their aid
efforts, but we are concerned that aid for trade flows have been negatively
affected by the global economic and financial crises. We urge donors
to continue to support the efforts of developing countries, especially
LDCs, to integrate into the world trading system, by directing aid
for trade flows to areas of the highest priority as identified by
the beneficiaries, including infrastructure, productive capacity,
and costs of adjustment."
With regard to the post-MC9 Work Programme, the ACP Ministers encouraged
Members "to define a post-Bali work programme that captures the
need to build upon any progress achieved at MC9 and delivers on development
as a key component of the DDA."