Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov13/02)
13 November 2013
Third World Network
cites "significant progress" on Bali issues
Published in SUNS #7684 dated 29 October 2013
Geneva, 28 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- "Significant progress"
has been made in all three areas - trade facilitation, some elements
of agriculture, and development/LDC issues - of the proposed Bali
package and the finish line is "clear and it is in sight,"
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in his latest report to
the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC).
At the informal TNC meeting on 25 October, Mr Azevedo, in his capacity
as TNC Chair, reported that Members are now in the final countdown
to identify all landing zones for the three Bali deliverables.
"We still have a lot to do. But let me be clear. When I say that,
I don't mean that we won't get there, or that progress is slow. Compared
to what we had before, progress is anything but slow. Compared to
what we had before, we are breaking the sound barrier. The degree
of engagement is now several orders of magnitude higher," he
He added: "When we started this process Members were still very
tentative in some areas. Instead of seriously exploring landing zones,
Members were marking their territory. Now we are defining landing
zones. We have made significant progress in all three areas. It is
a transformation. And the process has accelerated in the past few
According to trade officials, the meeting also heard that two draft
decisions (so far) will be transmitted to Ministers at the ninth Ministerial
Conference this December (via first the General Council): one on preferential
rules of origin for the LDCs and a second on an LDC services waiver.
Speaking following the TNC Chair's report, Nepal, on behalf of the
LDCs, said that while the texts on the LDC services waiver and on
rules of origin were not the optimal outcome for the LDCs, in the
spirit of compromise, they agreed to have these issues put forward
in this way.
Morocco, for the African Group, wanted the 28 Cancun Agreement-specific
proposals to be taken up as part of the post-Bali process.
Argentina again voiced concern that there is too little progress on
agriculture, while the ACP Group, on the issue of trade facilitation,
felt that any process should respect the understanding that no Member
will be required to implement a Category C obligation when that Member
has not acquired capacity.
In their own reports at the informal TNC, the Chairs on the Bali issues
and the LDC Facilitator gave their respective assessments on the work
to date to the membership.
The LDC Facilitator, Ambassador Steffen Smidt, pointed out that the
draft decision on rules of origin contains a set of multilateral guidelines
for rules of origin requirements that Members apply to their non-reciprocal
preference schemes for LDCs.
For the first time, governments will have a set of multilaterally
agreed guidelines which should help make it easier for LDC exports
to qualify for preferential market access to both developed and developing
On the operationalisation of the LDC services waiver, he said that
this agreement would say that Ministers would instruct the Council
for Trade in Services to initiate a process aimed at promoting the
expeditious and effective operationalisation of the LDC services waiver.
A high-level meeting is foreseen for Members to indicate where they
intend to provide preferential market access to LDCs' service suppliers.
The meeting will take place six months after LDCs table a collective
request identifying the sectors and modes of supply of export interest
to them, he further said.
He added that Members in their individual capacities are encouraged
at any time to extend preferences to LDCs' services and service suppliers
consistent with the waiver decision. It is also recognised that there
are capacity constraints in many services sectors and that work needs
to be done through Aid for Trade and other technical assistance and
capacity building programmes to help these governments to move forward.
On Duty Free Quota Free (DFQF) market access for LDC products, the
Facilitator said that there has not yet been a proposal from the LDCs.
Reporting on his consultations on the development issues, Ambassador
Kwok Fook Seng of Singapore, in reference to the S&D Monitoring
Mechanism, said that there are three remaining issues to be resolved.
On agriculture, trade officials said that on the G-33 proposal on
food security, what is being seen now is a general agreement on the
shape of the due restraint measure.
There is basic convergence relating to this, in that this would apply
to certain staple crops (the precise number not being known yet),
they said, adding that Members are getting close to an agreement on
There are some concerns with regards to safeguards and how they will
be implemented, as well as how to deal with grains that spill over
into internal or international markets, said trade officials, adding
that other areas where there are differences of view are the duration
of the measure and what would be the post-Bali work programme in terms
of addressing this issue.
On export competition, trade officials said that there is agreement
that there should be a reaffirmation of the Hong Kong Ministerial
Declaration, i. e, that all forms of export subsidies will be abolished.
On transparency in Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) administration, trade officials
said that the issue here is that developing countries have a wide
latitude in terms of S&D, and that there are countries that are
pushing to have this S&D provision in many respects disciplined
so that large emerging countries don't carve out this area and that
they would have to put in certain disciplines under an agreement that
However, developing countries are saying that being developing countries,
they have S&D which has been agreed. For some developing countries,
this (the moves to discipline) would be a ‘red-line'.
The Chair of the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation reported
that Members are now in the final phase of the negotiations to create
a new Trade Facilitation Agreement.
He believed that Members are making good progress on all of the three
pillars of the negotiating mandate, adding that he is confident that
a good result for Bali on Trade Facilitation is now very much within
Recalling that at last week's Negotiating Group meeting, Members agreed
on consensus language to clean up several parts of Section I of the
draft text (on commitments), he said that he feels at last that this
Section is now looking more bracket-free than bracketed.
He noted that in this final stage of the negotiations there is a particular
responsibility on the proponents to broaden support for their proposals,
and said he is pleased to see that they are bringing additional flexibilities
to the table in an attempt to identify solutions that can hope to
find consensus support.
Negotiations on Section II of the draft Agreement (on S&D provisions)
are making progress under the chairmanship of Mr Michael Stone in
a small group that is representative of the ACP, African and LDC Members
as well as donor Members, he said, adding that finding an accommodation
for Section II is crucial for Members reaching an agreement on Trade
Meaningful S&D flexibilities can help developing countries and
LDCs accept more readily and confidently the implementation challenges
that are posed by the provisions of Section I, he said.
He further said that Section II also contains the heart of the development
dimension of a Trade Facilitation agreement - the DNA of the DDA.
The economic benefits of better trade facilitation will accrue from
a sustained period of reform and implementation by developing countries
Not surprisingly, they want assurance that they will receive, where
necessary, equally sustained support from their development partners
throughout that period, he said, adding that he does not believe that
there is any disagreement among Members that this describes the landing
zone for Section II.
The challenge Members are facing is finding the right language to
express this so that it can become part of the binding legal text
of the agreement.
"Members are making progress towards this, particularly over
the past week or so, and I do believe that we have a possible solution
now in sight."
Good progress has also been made in the past couple of weeks on customs
cooperation, the third pillar of the TF mandate, the TF Chair said,
adding that this is an area that remained blocked in the negotiations
for a very long time, so it is particularly welcome to see flexibility
on all sides of this issue starting to bear fruit.
On the cross-cutting issues in the TF agreement, he said that there
too, there is serious engagement and "I feel we can be confident
that a good solution is in reach."
The TF Chair also stressed that all of the results of all negotiations,
in whatever format they are taking place, will be brought back to
the full membership for consideration before anyone declares that
there is a consensus.
In his statement at the informal TNC meeting, D-G Azevedo reported
on his own activities since the last TNC meeting on 14 October.
Since then, he had undertaken a process of intensive consultations
with delegations in recent days.
"My aim is to facilitate agreement among the main concerned Members
on key points. So my consultations have focused on specific issues,
paragraphs and even words, which the Chairs and Facilitator for LDC
issues have identified as requiring urgent attention."
The issues covered in his consultations with delegations were: the
implementation of the Hong Kong DFQF Decision; the Cancun 28 proposals;
cotton; a number of specific issues in Section I of the draft Trade
Facilitation text; Section II of the draft Trade Facilitation text;
customs cooperation; some elements of the G-33 proposal on food security;
export competition; and TRQ administration.
Overall, he said, the delegations he consulted understood that this
is now the endgame, and there was a constructive attitude and an encouraging
degree of willingness to find convergence.
Mr. Azevedo said there are essentially two types of work that Members
need to do:
"First, in those areas where we are at an advanced stage, we
need to solve the remaining brackets quickly. The options are all
on the table. Trade-offs and commonalities are becoming more evident.
We need to move rapidly to reach final agreement on these issues.
"The second type of work is in those areas where we have made
great progress in identifying conceptual landing zones, where divergence
was still very wide just 10 days ago. Now we need to accelerate our
work by translating this progress into text and locking it in."
No matter which of these two categories an issue falls into, the goal
is the same, he said.
He added: "We should be aiming to bring all areas of work up
to the same level of finality over the next few days. We have made
significant advances in areas where, for months, negotiations were
intractable. We are very close to a final deal in many. But there
is no hiding the fact that, in other areas, there are still some very
hard negotiations ahead."
As Members move closer to a conclusion, they are finding that: unexpected
issues come up; Members scrutinise issues more closely; and capitals
are actually getting involved, "as we asked them to. And they
are asking legitimate questions that we must answer."
"All issues must be worked out in just a matter of days. We are
approaching zero hour. There is simply no more time to keep engineering
new and complex solutions."
He added: "I think we can build upon the excellent momentum from
your work on LDC issues, where things are moving strongly in the right
direction. As we have just heard, there is convergence on the text
for preferential rules of origin and the operationalization of the
services waiver. Both will soon be put up to Members for onward transmission
to Ministers for their consideration in Bali."
Like Steffen Smidt, the other Chairs are also making very significant
"I believe you still want Bali to succeed. And therefore I urge
all delegations to show the political will that success will require.
In the coming days we will also be starting informal conversations
with Members, both individually and collectively, on how we should
frame the ministerial outcomes for Bali."
According to the TNC Chair, this involves, among other elements, the
format and the substance of the documents issued. They will broadly
cover: the on-going work of the WTO; the Bali deliverables; DDA issues;
and non-DDA issues that are not yet regular components of our work.
Mr Azevedo reported that he has started, together with the Chairman
of the General Council and the Secretariat, internal technical work
with a view to identifying the options available to Members.
"We have few working days left to produce concrete results for
Bali. This means that work has to intensify even further at all levels,
every day and every night, in contacts amongst delegations, consultations
by Chairs, Friends, the LDC Facilitator, and in my own consultations."
By the end of this final push, said the TNC Chair, "we have to
make a collective determination about whether the Bali package will
be achieved. And we will have to prepare our report and any recommendations
to the General Council in November."
"The finish line is clear and it is in sight. I believe we can
get there," he further said.
Several delegations took the floor following the TNC Chair's report.
According to trade officials, Morocco, on behalf of the African Group,
said that they are still encountering difficulties with respect to
the trade facilitation negotiations, and highlighted the importance
of paragraph 4.5 (of Section II of the draft negotiating text on implementation
of provisions notified under Category C by developing countries and
LDCs being conditional on the provision of adequate and effective
technical assistance and capacity building measures by developed countries
and/or other donors.)
It also highlighted the 28 Cancun Agreement-specific proposals, and
wants this taken up as part of the post-Bali process. The post-Bali
process itself is very important, it added.
Nepal, on behalf of the LDCs, said that while the texts on the LDC
services waiver and on rules of origin were not the optimal outcome
for the LDCs, in the spirit of compromise, they agreed to have these
issues put forward in this way.
Nepal hoped that DFQF and cotton will be treated in a similarly constructive
manner by the rest of the membership.
Argentina was concerned about too little progress on agriculture,
and that there is no agreement as yet on the question of export subsidies.
A political statement with a very low level of commitment is what
Members are looking at, and that is not satisfactory.
Argentina said that this makes it doubt the commitment of certain
On trade facilitation, Argentina was of the view that the push by
the developed countries for the technical provisions in Section I
(of the draft consolidated negotiating text) is going to stretch the
capacity of the developing countries.
Burkina Faso, on behalf of the Cotton-4, introduced the cotton proposal,
pointing out that there are three elements to it - the trade element,
the development element and the follow-up.
According to trade officials, on the trade element, there is a market
access provision, which would say that duty-free quota-free importation
of LDC cotton exports would be implemented by developed countries
and those developing countries in a position to do so with a target
date of 1 January 2015.
On domestic support for cotton, Ministers would urge their negotiators
to accelerate their work, to work hard to try and reach agreement
(on substantial reductions) by end of 2014. There would be a reaffirmation
of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration and the Secretariat would
compile a database of the cotton subsidies that are being extended
There would have to be reference of cotton in Aid for Trade programmes,
and that on monitoring, there needs to be a careful examination including
the link between the trade elements and the development elements of
Bolivia said that the outcome is not encouraging and that it is shaping
up to be a minus Ministerial Conference. There are no adequate outcomes
on cotton, DFQF or the G-33 proposal on food security.
It said that it is not too interested in the Trade Facilitation negotiations,
adding that it is not an urgent need. It also did not like the notion
of expedited shipments.
Jamaica, on behalf of the ACP Group, welcomed the reports of progress
in relation to LDC issues and on aspects of the Trade Facilitation
(TF), Development and Agriculture pillars.
On TF, the ACP Group felt that real further progress can be achieved
on section 2 understanding that time is of the essence.
"ACP members in keeping with our efforts throughout this process
to be constructive and solution oriented will make further inputs
in this regard. We will continue to consult on the approaches and
options for resolving outstanding issues, with interested delegations
especially our G90 partners."
Jamaica added: "... our members feel that any process should
respect the understanding that no member will be required to implement
a Category C obligation when that member has not acquired capacity.
At the same time, we recognize that this must remain consistent with
the legal nature of the TF agreement and that this is not a matter
for a member's unilateral determination."
Accordingly, it said, "we will continue to explore the appropriate
means for having a member's assessment of its capacity or lack of
it being taken properly into account in determining the final assumption
of its obligation to implement."
The ACP Group emphasised the position expressed by its Ministers in
which they made clear the ACP's determination to work assiduously
to help secure a meaningful outcome in Bali.
The Ministers have said: "We consider a successful outcome in
Bali and a clear commitment to a post-Bali work programme that places
development at its core to be of vital importance to our Member States
and the WTO as a whole".
"We will spare no effort to pursue this clear objective and remain
hopeful that we together with all members will achieve the goals that
we set in our collective decision to pursue a meaningful Bali outcome,"
According to trade officials, in concluding, the Director-General
said that there are significant challenges ahead of Members but this
does not mean they have not made progress. "We have made significant
"We all know when there is a mood of disbelief, when people say
we're not going to make it. And clearly, this is not the case now.
There is a common view that we can make it," he said, adding,
"remember this, we are not talking about Bali, we're not taking
about the DDA, we're talking about the future of the multilateral