BACK TO MAIN  |  ONLINE BOOKSTORE  |  HOW TO ORDER

TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul14/02)
2 July 2014
Third World Network  

South stress on Single Undertaking, para 47 of Doha Declaration
Published in SUNS #7833 dated 30 June 2014 

Geneva, 27 Jun (Kanaga Raja) - A number of African countries, at an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) on 25 June, appeared to offer a different viewpoint to that of WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo, who warned over the implications of actions on the part of some delegations to re-visit the Trade Facilitation (TF) Agreement that was agreed to at Bali.

In their statements following Azevedo's report to the TNC, in his capacity as TNC Chair, the African countries, in particular, highlighted the importance of concluding the Doha Round as a Single Undertaking, as well as laying stress on paragraph 47 of the Doha Declaration.

Paragraph 47 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration states: "With the exception of the improvements and clarifications of the Dispute Settlement Understanding, the conduct, conclusion and entry into force of the outcome of the negotiations shall be treated as parts of a single undertaking. However, agreements reached at an early stage may be implemented on a provisional or a definitive basis. Early agreements shall be taken into account in assessing the overall balance of the negotiations."

[Some African countries had earlier proposed that the Trade Facilitation Agreement be implemented on a provisional basis in line with para 47 of the Doha Declaration. A Washington Trade Daily (WTD) report of 27 June has quoted an African envoy as saying that a African Union ministerial decision (relating to the provisional acceptance of the TF agreement) is unlikely to be endorsed by leaders at their annual AU summit that began on 26 June in Equatorial Guinea. The WTD has quoted a senior African trade official as saying: "Washington has warned my government that the AGOA preferential scheme will be terminated if we endorse the African Union trade ministerial decision at the heads of state meeting."]

At the informal TNC meeting, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group, for instance, stressed the importance of the Single Undertaking, adding that the notion that the issues of development, agriculture and LDC issues are bound together to trade facilitation is not something that is new.

Uganda (on behalf of the LDCs) complained that: "Six months after that triumphant day in Bali, everything else is being held hostage pending the conclusion of discussions on the TFA. It would be helpful, if members devoted as much time to LDC specific issues, as they do to the TFA."

It also said that development should be at the centre of the negotiations and the principle of the Single Undertaking should be preserved in line with paragraph 47 of the Doha Declaration.

The African Group said that it is committed to the Single Undertaking to ensure that balanced negotiated outcomes will be delivered, and that it will also help prevent ‘cherry-picking' (of issues).

On the implementation of the TF agreement, the African Group, noting that some countries seem to be seeking to apportion blame with respect to the TF discussions, said that the whole question of what is being taken up in the Preparatory Committee on TF is a matter of intense discussions within many groups and trying to shift blame onto certain groups, is something that may not be helpful at such a delicate stage of these negotiations.

At the informal meeting, developing countries, in particular, the LDCs also voiced concerns that the pace of the other nine issues from the Bali package are lagging behind TF.

Earlier, at the informal TNC, the Director-General had said that revisiting what was agreed in Bali would not only compromise the Trade Facilitation Agreement - including the technical assistance element, but "all of the Bali decisions - every single one of them - would be compromised. Everything we worked together to achieve in Bali would potentially be lost... Revisiting the Bali agreements would not improve our chances of getting the DDA done. In fact it would have precisely the opposite effect." (See separate story below on DG's remarks.)

The informal TNC also heard reports by the Chairs of the Special Session of the Agriculture Committee, Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services, the Negotiating Group on Market Access, the Special Session of the TRIPS Council, the Negotiating Group on Rules, the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment, the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development, and the Special Session of the Dispute Settlement Body.

A number of delegations spoke following the TNC Chair's report.

According to trade officials, Chinese Taipei (on behalf of the Recently Acceded Members - RAMs), stressed the importance of Special and Differential Treatment (S&D) for the RAMs given the fact that they had already made substantial concessions as part of their accession commitments.

Australia said that it had listened carefully to what the D-G had said about implementation of the TF Agreement and that it is supportive of any proposed solution with respect to technical assistance.

On behalf of the Cairns Group, Australia said that it has seen some progress on agriculture and it retained a high level of ambition for an agriculture package across the three pillars. The export competition proposals in the Rev.4 draft modalities text are ‘doable' and there is need to address the question of ‘what do we need to do to conclude the Doha Round'. In order to determine that, there is need to determine what needs to be done in each of the agriculture pillars. The Cairns Group is open to ideas for the post-Bali work programme.

Indonesia (on behalf of the G-33) said that agriculture must be at the centre of the discussions and any work programme must include the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and Special Products (SP). A permanent solution must also be found on the question of public stockholding for food security purposes, and that this must be done in line with the mandate from Ministers at Bali.

Switzerland (on behalf of the G-10) said that there has been some progress achieved on the issues of implementing the Bali outcomes and the post-Bali work programme. There must be balance across the three pillars in agriculture, and agriculture itself must also be balanced across the three issues of agriculture, NAMA (non-agricultural market access) and services.

There have been some ideas exchanged with respect to the post-Bali work programme but there has been very little progress so far on issues beyond the agriculture pillar. There must be balance as well between net importers and exporters. Market access is a particularly sensitive issue for the G-10 countries and members must take into account non-trade concerns in agriculture, it said.

On behalf of itself, Switzerland said that it is vitally important to implement all of the Bali decisions as this is critically important for the credibility of the WTO. The degree of progress on other issues will depend on the implementation of these Bali agreements.

What was outlined by the D-G was of great concern to Switzerland. The protocol of amendment (vis-a-vis the TF Agreement) must be implemented on a definitive basis, and not on a provisional basis. Meeting the July deadline on TF would be critical, if not members are jeopardising the post-Bali work programme and the multilateral trading system.

According to trade officials, Kenya (on behalf of the ACP Group) stressed the importance of the Single Undertaking. In the Bali Ministerial Declaration, there was a clear mandate for the post-Bali work programme to take up issues of importance to developing countries. These include issues of development, agriculture and LDC issues, and outcomes in these areas must be prioritised.

The notion that these issues are bound together to trade facilitation is not something that is new. Agriculture must be prioritised before we can see any kind of traction gained in NAMA or services.

Kenya viewed with caution the idea of using different approaches to obtain market access liberalisation, specifically the idea of using Regional Trade Agreements as a reference point, or the idea of trying to find more simple approaches to market access, as has been introduced in some fora or discussions.

The concerns of many in the ACP group pertain to a lack of clarity in trade-related technical assistance and capacity-building and this has had a paralysing effect on many members. When new ideas are explored on how to move forward, what is absolutely crucial is that members ensure that the specific flexibilities that were outlined for LDCs and SVEs (Small and Vulnerable Economies) in these texts are maintained. This includes duty-free, quota-free market access (DFQF), the operationalisation of the services waiver, and cotton (an end to cotton subsidies).

On behalf of itself, Kenya said that it endorsed the G-33 and the African Group statements (the African Group spoke later on in the session). The negotiations must be conducted in a transparent and inclusive manner and must be balanced.

Brazil (on behalf of the G-20) said that the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session noted that there was a real opportunity to get agreement on export competition. Finding this encouraging, it said that there is need now to remove all forms of trade-distorting export competition without delay.

The discussions in the Sub-Committee on Cotton were also important, it said, adding that members need to adhere to the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration that called for the removal of cotton subsidies expeditiously, specifically and ambitiously. In the post-Bali work programme, it is crucial that all three pillars in agriculture are addressed. S&D must also be respected.

Burkina Faso (on behalf of the Cotton-4) endorsed the ACP Group statement. In Bali, ministers had agreed to twice-yearly special sessions on cotton, addressing all three pillars of agriculture as they pertain to cotton. No agreement can be reached without an agreement on cotton, it said.

Paraguay supported the G-20 and Cairns Group statements.

The European Union said, "The credibility of the negotiating function of this organization is once again at stake and it is certainly our hope that the Membership will come together to make good on all the agreements reached by Ministers in Bali. The completion of the legal implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement by the deadline decided in Bali is of fundamental importance for creating the necessary environment to get real engagement by Members on the rest of the DDA. Anything short of what is foreseen in the relevant Bali decision will very seriously undermine any existing momentum in what we are trying to achieve here in Geneva particularly on Post-Bali."

The EU said it wished to reassure those Members that still consider that more clarity is needed on the assistance to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement. In this regard, the EU is looking favourably at efforts that the WTO is making to define a role for the secretariat to complement existing support and to enhance its effectiveness - so that developing countries can reap the full benefits of the agreement.

Encouraging developing countries to notify their Category A commitments, the EU said, "All in all we look forward to the end of July General Council agreeing on the text of the Protocol as foreseen in the Bali Decision."

Regarding the Bali Work Programme, the EU said that firstly the work programme needs to be agreed on time i.e. by the end of this year; secondly, the work programme will have to provide, with the necessary details, the landscape of the negotiation that will follow and the path to the conclusion of the DDA; thirdly, it will need to make clear, in concrete terms, that there is agreement among Members for parallelism between the DDA issues. The ambition in one area needs to be reflected in the ambition in the others. Appropriate parity between the negotiating areas is one of the most important keys to success; fourthly, it needs to enshrine the principle that challenging the well-known sensitivities of others will require Members to make commensurate concessions in fields sensitive to them.

According to the EU, the path to the Work Programme and then to concluding the DDA requires careful negotiations and step-by-step convergence among members within each pillar of negotiation and also balance and parallel progress among all pillars. It believed that in order for this challenging process to be doable and move forward toward a positive resolution of the DDA, within the time limits agreed, "we do need to simplify the overall approach in at least some areas of the negotiations."

"Simplification does not mean doing away with our previous work. All it means is that we begin considering solutions that are easier for WTO Members to implement and which provide Members the flexibility they need to adapt their concessions to their economic situation and to the changes that took place since the beginning of the DDA negotiations, while at the same time making sure that the negotiation across the various pillars can advance with the necessary parallelism," it said.

The EU said that simplification might be particularly important to address those areas which proved to be stumbling blocks in the past and particularly on market access issues, both on agriculture and NAMA. It can also be important in order to move forward on services, where previous efforts were highly unsatisfactory and where the EU has recently floated some ideas.

According to trade officials, Pakistan said that the LDC issues should be a priority and it is clear from what members say that agriculture and development issues are at the very centre of the negotiations. It voiced agreement with the G-20, the G-33 and the Cairns Group statements.

Argentina said that agriculture is at the heart of these negotiations. Once the level of ambition is defined in agriculture, then the level of ambition can be defined in NAMA and services.

Korea said that the successful implementation of all Bali package elements should remain the highest priority. It is concerned about what it had heard about trade facilitation. It expected countries to notify their Category A commitments as soon as possible. The road for the protocol of amendment (vis-a-vis the TF Agreement) has a clear finish line, which is the end of next month. This timeline must be respected.

Turkey said that transparency and inclusiveness must be the guiding principles, and that there must be balance within the three issues of agriculture, NAMA and services.

China supported the statements of the RAMs, the G33 and the G20. It said that development should always stay in the heart of this round. "Any solution should put the concerns of developing Members, and the LDCs in particular on the top priority. Special and Differential Treatment, less than full reciprocity and other well-known concerns of the developing Members should be fully respected and reflected in making of the Work Program."

It noted that recently there have been some solution-oriented ideas flying around. "We do not resist exploration, but we should not give up the 2008 text, unless and until we have found these ideas more doable and acceptable to all Members. If certain adjustment or simplification of the ambitions, as introduced by EU just now, becomes necessary, it must apply to all Members, with equal proportion based on the 2008 text."

The modality and outcome should be fair and balanced, so that the result would not simply make some Members more comfortable while making others less comfortable, it said, adding that in no case "should we accept such a scenario where only a few Members and the developing Members in particular, are required to pay for the entire Doha Round."

In order to make the discussion more constructive and further narrow the differences, members should honestly show what they can contribute, where their sensitivities are. Finger pointing or cross-examining each other is not a good defensive weapon or negotiation strategy because it is pointless and unhelpful, China said.

With regard to implementation of the Bali package, China said that the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement is one of the top priorities of the WTO for this year. The completion of all the preparatory work in accordance with the mandate of the Bali Ministerial Decision is crucial for the multilateral trading system.

However, it believed a lot still remains to be done on implementation. "We hope that due attention should be paid to the concerns of developing countries and that the on-going dialogues between Members will produce a good result."

China informed that back in its capital, the preparation work for implementation has entered its final stage and that it will provide the Category A Notification as soon as possible.

According to trade officials, Mexico said that it is important to understand that if the Bali (outcomes) are reopened, there will be no post-Bali work programme. All of the achievements of Ministers will be thrown overboard. That would be unfortunate to say the least. There is also need to rationalise and simplify the elements that have been discussed over many years. If progress is to be seen across the three areas (agriculture, NAMA and services), this is what members will have to do. Balance is needed across these areas and it goes without saying that agriculture will set the tone.

Uganda (on behalf of the Least Developed Countries) expressed discomfort with the pace with which the LDC issues are being handled. "Six months after that triumphant day in Bali, everything else is being held hostage pending the conclusion of discussions on the TFA. It would be helpful, if members devoted as much time to LDC specific issues, as they do to the TFA."

It referred, for instance, to the operationalisation of the LDCs services waiver, saying that the waiver decision has been with members for some time without operationalization. The Ministers in their wisdom elected to create a two-tier kind of approach with the view to fast-tracking the process.

"While we are making advances in submitting our collective request before the summer break; with the exception of only one developing country member, no other member has voluntarily and proactively extended preferences to LDCs' services and services suppliers which have economic benefit to them. Nonetheless, we urge members to accord our request upon submission, the requisite attention it deserves, with the view to granting and or, responding with, preferences that have commercial value and promote economic benefits to us."

It welcomed the first dedicated meeting of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture on the trade-related aspects of cotton, and hoped that these negotiations, as was the case for the TFA will lead to tangible results that give greater confidence in the Multilateral Trading System. It urged members to refrain from politicizing discussions on cotton, and invited the key players to remain engaged in a constructive manner.

With regard to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), Uganda said that the TFA has been treated like the favourite child in an African home rendering all else peripheral. The LDC group has not questioned the utility of the TFA, rather it is the cost of implementing such an Agreement.

"Who is going to pay for the implementation of this Agreement? Where and what is the nature of funding? What are the terms of accessing such funding? Are they loans or grants? It is important to observe that most of our Parliaments at the time of ratification always, without fail, require a certificate of financial compliance to accompany the Agreement. What shall we tell them? Which is why we have requested on numerous occasions in the past, that as a confidence building measure, we should have a dedicated discussion within this forum on this question. We have however, received neither objection nor concurrence. We hope that this time around, you will take steps to answer our call, with the view to establishing a Dedicated Trade Facilitation Fund."

With respect to the work programme on the remaining DDA issues, while noting the positive indication and commitment from members to advance the negotiations under the DDA, Uganda said: "Our fear is that six months have passed without a clear indication of the elements and structure for the work Programme on the Remaining Agenda of the Doha Round. We believe that it is now time that members begin to have focussed discussions on the elements and structure of the Work Programme. It is clear from the consultations that Agriculture, Non Agriculture Market Access and Services will be important and indispensable elements of our work programme. Let us put this on paper and begin to fill gaps."

On agriculture, it noted with regret that not much progress has been made on the public stockholding mandate for a permanent solution. "It is our hope that work will be initiated so that members can begin to define the contours of possible compromises that could be arrived at with regard to this important topic of food security."

While Agriculture will set the level of ambition in the negotiations, there should be balance between Agriculture, NAMA and Services. Development should be at the centre of these negotiations and the principle of the single undertaking should be preserved in line with paragraph 47.

"We must focus on the conclusion of the DDA without introducing new issues. The draft modalities texts should be the basis of our negotiations. Language on special and differential treatment for LDCs and developing countries should be preserved. Further, we would be interested in discussions on domestic supports especially those that distort the market as well as export competition in line with the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration."

With regard to NAMA, Uganda said that the LDCs should not be required to make any tariff cuts that go beyond their level of development. Care should be taken to address the question of preference erosion. A credible outcome in Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and related initiatives, particularly rules of origin, will be vital in ensuring that Market Access accorded to the LDCs is truly meaningful.

"Our view is that any initiative aimed at breaking the stalemate in NAMA negotiations must ensure that the policy space necessary for the growth of our infant industries is preserved. The fundamentals of Rev. 3 must be preserved particularly in keeping the sectorals voluntary."

"It has been six months since Bali, we have seen no substantive movement in those areas where legally binding outcomes could not be achieved. These include our own LDC specific issues," said Uganda.

According to trade officials, Guatemala (on behalf of the SVEs) was concerned about the pace at which the post-Bali work programme is unfurling, adding that it wants to see things move faster. Major economies need to step up and help enure that the pace of work can be increased in this area. Flexibilities in the Rev. 4 text and for services must be preserved for SVEs. Fisheries subsidies is an important issue, it said, adding that over-fishing is a cause for the depletion of fish stocks. S&D treatment must be accorded to the SVEs in this area.

Japan said that it has serious concerns about the question of the steady implementation of the TF agreement. This is a crucially important part of the Bali agreement. To have this implemented in a timely fashion is crucially important for the post-Bali process. It strongly appealed to its colleagues to face the fact that there will be a serious risk ahead of members if they do not implement the TF agreement. It called for this to be implemented as soon as possible, otherwise this would jeopardise the post-Bali work programme and the multilateral trading system.

On the post-Bali work programme, it is open to explore and test ideas. It is important to understand that the world has changed since 2001 and 2008.

Lesotho (on behalf of the African Group) endorsed the ACP, the LDC and Cotton-4 statements. It took note of the D-G's remarks on improving technical-assistance. There are concerns that if members move away from formula cuts as has been suggested by some, this might impact on the policy space and flexibility that have been extended to African countries in the existing texts. It is inconceivable to envision any agreement that did not take these principles into account, it said.

It is a sad fact that the 2008 draft modalities texts have been called into question. What this raises is questions in the minds of many African countries: are members abandoning the development principles of the Doha Ministerial Declaration? What about issues like S&D and other development issues? These are an integral part of agriculture, as well as other parts of the negotiations.

On NAMA, it said that the principle of less than full reciprocity is absolutely crucial. The level of ambition of the 2008 texts should not be downgraded especially in agriculture, which it said is central to the overall negotiations.

The African Group is committed to a Single Undertaking to ensure that the negotiated outcomes will be delivered and that these outcomes will be balanced. It also helps prevent ‘cherry-picking'. It also called for an inclusive and transparent process. All members must be equally engaged. Many of the non-binding Bali issues are now in regular committees, so every effort must be made to ensure that these issues are addressed as part of the post-Bali work programme.

On the question of the implementation of the TF agreement, it said that the Preparatory Committee on TF has put forward a document and this is a matter of interest to all members.

It said that the balance of these various issues is shifting more to TF than to other issues. It seems that some countries are seeking to apportion blame with respect to the TF discussions. The whole question of what is being taken up in the PrepCom on TF is a matter of intense discussions within many groups and trying to shift blame onto certain groups may not be helpful at such a delicate stage of these negotiations.

Colombia said that a TF agreement was something that was agreed by everyone and to not implement this would have a damaging impact not only on the Bali issues but on all of the future work. Once TF is agreed, there is then need to shift attention to the post-Bali work programme.

Jordan (on behalf of the Arab Group) said that the Group is keen to engage in all areas of the negotiations. Agriculture, NAMA and services must be tackled together. No new issues should be taken up before the DDA is concluded. The Single Undertaking is important as is S&D. In agriculture, the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes must be addressed because this has an important role in the alleviation of poverty.

Uruguay stressed on a transparent and inclusive process, and supported the Cairns Group and the G-20. It is agriculture that will set the level of ambition in NAMA and services.

Hong Kong-China said that work on the protocol of amendment on TF has to be completed. It understands the concerns that have been expressed on trade-related technical assistance. The single most pressing element of the Bali accords to implement is TF. With a protocol, we must keep it simple. All of us signed up to the Ministerial Declaration. There were no exceptions. All of us have the obligation to now implement. Failure to implement will have dire consequences, including for trade-related technical assistance itself.

Tanzania aligned itself to the statements of the LDCs, the African Group and the ACP Group. It noted that while after Bali there has been some progress in few areas, "work is not yet complete as we finish the first half of the year. We need to effectively exert all our energy to finish the assignment in a timely manner. While we continue working together in the implementation programme, we need to ask general questions to ourselves as to whether we are moving to the right direction in this process."

According to Tanzania, the other question is on how to address the core issues of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) including Agriculture which is key for development to the developing and least developing countries.

"We should work towards realizing binding outcomes on a priority basis on those LDCs issues in the Bali package where legally binding outcomes could not be secured and those that were not fully addressed be concluded. Further, we need to remind ourselves that the Bali WTO Ministerial outcomes addressed only a part of the Development Agenda and that is Trade Facilitation and this is why Ministers directed us to work on the unfinished business so that the entire DDA issues are addressed in the right way."

On the basis of the foregoing, Tanzania said that it is its considered view that according to the DDA, the TFA is not unconnected to other issues such as the three pillars of Agriculture; NAMA, particularly, the consideration of flexibilities for the LDCs and developing countries; services, i.e. the implementation of the services waiver for the LDCs; and the issues of Special and Differential Treatment.

Focusing on only one part of the DDA will never address the development pillar consistent to its principles, it said, adding that it strongly believes that for effective implementation of the TFA, the DDA and the TFA outcomes are mutually reinforcing and thus their interconnectedness should be preserved.

Stressing that Tanzania approved and agreed to be part of the concluded TFA in the Bali Ministerial Meeting and has no plan to renege from that commitment, it noted that "while we are aware that implementation (of) TFA will increase the momentum in facilitating trade and deliver benefits to everyone, we stress the importance of addressing the DDA issues as a whole in the work plan."

According to trade officials, Ecuador said that the 2008 draft texts should be the basis for the negotiations. It said that agriculture is a core element of the negotiations and that S&D is the best way to ensure that all members participate fully in the multilateral trading system.

Cameroon agreed with the ACP, African Group, LDCs and C-4 statements.

Saudi Arabia voiced agreement with the statements of the Arab Group and the RAMs. It is important to prioritise the issues that are not legally binding that emerged from Bali. Those relating to agriculture, development, LDCs and cotton need to be prioritised and a work programme created for each issue.

India endorsed the G-20 and G-33 statements. It said that the post-Bali phase has witnessed asymmetrical movement on the Bali decisions, expressing concern that there is less than the desired level of engagement on the DDA work programme as well as on prioritization of issues in the Bali Package where legally binding outcomes could not be achieved. There is apprehension that once Trade Facilitation is done, there would be little or no interest to take the development agenda forward.

Referring to trade facilitation, India said that on the drafting of the Protocol of Amendment and the Draft Decision of the General Council, all suggestions and proposals made by Members, whether in writing or from the floor, need to be deliberated and discussed.

"Concerns have been raised about the lack of certainty and transparency in the flow of assistance to developing countries and LDCs for the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The events organized by the Secretariat in the second week of June to bring donors and donees together, though laudable, have only generated more assurances. If the confidence deficit in this regard has to be bridged we must consider and act upon the assurances with utmost urgency and convert them into workable mechanisms."

The issue of public stockholding for food security purposes is absolutely critical for India, it said, noting that the G-33 has called for initiation of discussion on a work programme in the Committee on Agriculture meeting on 5-6 June.

"We would like to see constructive and serious engagement on the subject. India cannot have confidence in the process unless this issue is taken forward in a concerted manner with a view to arriving at a satisfactory permanent solution in accordance with the Ministerial Decision."

As far as the DDA work programme is concerned, said India, it is being said that texts provide important guidance on how to move forward but that this is not a round to end all rounds and focus should be on what is doable. "Doability is a relative term. It should not amount to rewriting the mandate itself."

"Simplification has been mentioned many a time in this context but the meaning and contours of simplification are not clear to us. Balance has to be maintained across the different pillars within each sector as well as across sectors for the Doha Package to be balanced and equitable. Although it would be belabouring the point that this is a development agenda, it is necessary to emphasise that in no case can the development dimension be diluted or side-stepped. Also the attempt at innovation and simplification cannot result in a situation where one pillar within a sector substantively gets out of the reckoning," said India.

It further said that the cardinal principle of tariff negotiations in the WTO is related to bound tariffs, and that benchmarking ambition to applied tariffs is not even a part of the WTO rules let alone the negotiating mandate.

"The attempts at creativity and innovation appear to be complicating the discussions as new perspectives like GVC (global value chains)-related services are being introduced. Instead of bringing in such new perspectives and prioritizing other Doha issues, it might be more doable to address the core development issues in the agenda at this juncture. Since this has been characterized as ‘not a round to end all rounds', the other Doha issues could be taken up after the core development agenda has been negotiated and agreed to. Less than full reciprocity and special and differential treatment are the guiding principles of the development agenda and are non-negotiable," said India.

The United States, referring to trade facilitation, said that the TNC is a body overseeing negotiations, and negotiations on Trade Facilitation are done - Ministers finished them six months ago.

"However, at this moment, there are movements afoot to renegotiate how we bring the TFA into force. Those leading this movement seem to believe, in part, that they may get more out of a post-Bali work program if they are somehow successful. This is a mistaken and dangerous miscalculation. Let me be clear, as Ambassador Froman [the USTR] was during recent meetings in Paris: If the Trade Facilitation Agreement unravels, it's hard to imagine a post-Bali work plan proceeding. Why? Because Members of this organization will have demonstrated to the world that WTO negotiations, even when they are successful, are simply not taken seriously by all WTO Members. This would devastate our collective credibility to negotiate in areas that all of us know are far more difficult than trade facilitation."

On the discussions on the post-Bali work programme, the US said that one significant concern for it is that "it's still not clear that we have a meeting of the minds that we are negotiating on the basis of today's trade realities. You've heard us raise in past meetings the importance of current data, the need to reexamine definitions of ‘recently acceded' that are approaching nonsensical, and the critical importance of ensuring that all agricultural subsidies, by all Members, be part of the discussion in any resumed discussions of agriculture."

The US said that it has difficulty envisioning forward movement "unless we have clear understandings on these issues. I do want to dig in a bit deeper on the issue of ‘RAM status', because it is emblematic of the difficult issues that we cannot avoid confronting. The RAM Group argued this morning that their special status is important because it compensates for concessions they made in joining the WTO. I understand that argument may have made sense in the context of a particular moment in time, but that text does include the concept of time. Geneva must be the only place in the world where the term ‘recently' is divorced from time. That's just goofy."

"In a broader sense, it is also far from clear that the fundamental dynamics that led to our Ministers' conclusions about the DDA at 2011's MC8 have changed in any meaningful way. By this I mean, of course, the inability to have a clear sense of how contributions should be shared, particularly among developed countries and those developing countries that are increasingly successful and influential in our trading system. Some initial testing about whether the fundamentals have changed, in our view, is not encouraging. At the end of the day, the world has changed, and there is no escaping the central quandary that the WTO has not yet found the solution for how to address that change."

For example, said the US, "we have heard from one major agriculture subsidiser that policies existing in 2001 represent a 2014 redline. I would ask my colleagues to consider the implications if all WTO Members adopted a similar position - that trade distortions adopted after 2001 are off the table at the beginning of our post-Bali discussion. Certainly this might be one way to simplify our discussion. Of course, if one major player adopts such a position, it has implications for the negotiating flexibility of all Members."

"It also seems urgent that questions of ambition level and balance be clarified quickly. In terms of the modalities themselves, we are hearing more about ‘simplification'. That is probably an important direction for us to consider, although probably also easier said than done," it added.

The US said it is committed, above all, to finalizing a Post-Bali Work Plan, adding that balance is the key, and contributions must be shared.

"Frankly, it is difficult at this juncture to assess a potential US contribution when basic questions remain unanswered. For example, are emerging economy agriculture subsidies a part of the negotiating landscape? Even more basically, when will key emerging economies notify their subsidies so that we know what they are?"

On food security, the US said that it is frankly mystified by suggestions that there is some reluctance to engage in discussions of a permanent solution to public stockholding for food security.

"As for the United States, we have demonstrated - including through the submission of a paper outlining US views at the March meeting of the Committee on Agriculture - that we're perfectly ready for this discussion. We look forward to seeing submissions from other Members - including from proponents - so that we have a basis for detailed discussions. I would note that we have received no feedback to date on our paper from any Member."

"It is also very puzzling that some are suggesting that work on food security must progress step-by-step with work to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement. This makes no sense to us, since ministers in Bali directed the TFA to be implemented according to a precise timetable, with adoption of a protocol next month, while the work program on food security very clearly has a timeframe keyed to the 11th Ministerial Conference, to occur in 2017. We see no reason to delay work on food security, on the basis of relevant submissions by concerned Members, but Ministers did not direct or expect this to move in synchronicity with the process of implementing a concluded agreement," said the US.

 


BACK TO MAIN  |  ONLINE BOOKSTORE  |  HOW TO ORDER