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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov13/01)
13 November 2013
Third World Network  

ACP 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 9-11 October.
 
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 issues.
 
[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 required.]
 
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 principles:
 
"(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 with paragraph
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 States;
 
"(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 sustainable basis."
 
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 agreed.
 
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 building) that:
 
(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 required;
 
(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."

 


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