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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul14/09)
21 July  2014
Third World Network

TFA's entry must be conditioned on development outcomes
Published in SUNS #7848 dated 21 July 2014

Geneva, 18 Jul (Kanaga Raja) - Over 150 civil society organisations (CSOs) and trade unions worldwide have called on the Members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to condition the entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) to the conclusion and fulfilment of the Development mandate of the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

This call came in a letter sent by the CSOs to Trade Ministers and WTO Ambassadors on the eve of the G-20 Trade Ministers' meeting scheduled to take place this weekend in Sydney, Australia, and which is also expected to be attended by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo.

In their letter dated 18 July, which was organised by the global CSO network Our World is Not For Sale (OWINFS), the civil society groups said that throughout the Doha Round, they have witnessed the often successful efforts by developed countries to push aside key development-oriented proposals put forth by developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in favour of market access demands that benefit developed-country exporting and importing corporations.

"Developing country and LDC members of the WTO are correct to demand that the TFA only enter into force upon completion of the single undertaking under the Doha Work Programme, and particularly the fulfilment of its Development mandate," said the letter.

If allowed to enter into force as a stand-alone agreement irrespective of the rest of the issues of concern to developing countries and LDCs, the TFA would severely tilt the trade rules in the WTO even more in favour of developed countries and their multinational corporations, the letter underlined.

According to an OWINFS media release accompanying the CSO letter, news reports have cited pressure from Director-General Azevedo on G-20 Trade Ministers, particularly India and South Africa, to abandon their pro-development positions and agree this weekend to the developed countries' position on negotiations that are ongoing in the WTO.

The CSOs, however, noted that the G-20 only represents a small fraction of the 160 Members of the WTO.

In particular, the OWINFS media release said, there is wide divergence of position regarding a protocol for the entry into force of the TFA. It added that it is well-known that the TFA was a proposal of the developed countries.

[On 10 July, the WTO Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation formally adopted the legal texts of the TFA, but consensus still eluded Members on the Protocol of Amendment that would bring to legal effect the TFA by inserting it into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement. The previous week, the Preparatory Committee held a two-day session that saw continued differences among Members over the possible language for the Protocol that would reference paragraph 47 of the Doha Declaration, which outlines the principle of the Single Undertaking.

[On the first day of that two-day session, a number of developing countries made interventions reiterating the need for the language in para 47 to be in both the draft Protocol and the draft General Council decision that will adopt the Protocol. In particular, India had told that meeting that until it has an assurance and visible outcomes that convince developing countries that Members will engage in negotiations with commitment to finding a permanent solution on public stockholding and other Bali deliverables, especially those for the LDCs, it will find it difficult to join the consensus on the Protocol. See SUNS #7838 dated 7 July 2014 and #7843 dated 14 July 2014.]

The CSO letter released on 18 July was endorsed by a number of major international and regional networks, as well as numerous national organisations.

Among the international and regional networks that signed onto the letter are ACP Civil Society Forum, African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), LDC Watch-Africa, Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD), Public Services International (PSI), Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), and Third World Network.

In their letter, the CSOs noted that since the inception of the WTO, developing countries have made positive proposals seeking to improve the rules of the global trade system in favour of development.

"Lamentably, throughout the Doha Round, we have witnessed the often successful efforts by developed countries to push aside key development-oriented proposals put forth by developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in favour of market access demands that benefit developed-country exporting and importing corporations."

The CSOs further said that the outcomes of the ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali were similarly imbalanced.

The issues of urgency for developing countries, such as the G-33 proposal to allow developing countries to invest in Food Security, were sidelined, and the LDC proposals were concluded only in "best endeavour" language.

"However, the developed country agenda, reflected in the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), was concluded with binding rules that carry extensive regulatory, capital and recurring cost implications, which could divert limited resources away from priority development needs such as health, education, and domestic infrastructure investments in LDCs and developing countries."

At the same time, said the letter, there has been a gaping lack of enforceable commitment from the developed countries in terms of concrete additional and long-term financial contributions to support implementation of the Agreement, although this was promised at the onset of the trade facilitation negotiations.

"Developing country and LDC members of the WTO are correct to demand that the TFA only enters into force upon completion of the single undertaking under the Doha Work Programme, and particularly the fulfilment of its Development mandate."

Recalling that developing countries only agreed to initiate the Doha Round on the basis that Development issues would form the core of the mandate, the CSOs said: "It would be unconscionable for the liberalization demands of the developed countries to form an ‘Early Harvest' at the expense of concluding binding rules on Food Security, LDCs issues, and other urgent development-focused proposals which require the full and immediate attention of WTO members."

The letter further noted that developing countries and LDCs have made concrete proposals regarding the Development mandate, including implementation issues, strengthening and operationalizing Special and Differential Treatment (SDT), agriculture, and LDC issues.

It is these issues which must be re-prioritized in the agenda, the CSOs stressed. In particular, agriculture rules must be changed to ensure that developing countries have the policy space to invest in increasing agricultural production, particularly among small farmers, to achieve Food Security.

"Thus, we urge WTO Members to condition the entry into force of the TFA to the conclusion and fulfilment of the Development mandate and further negotiations necessary for the transformation of the global trade regime."

In addition, the CSOs said that they have been extremely dismayed to witness the pressuring discourse adopted by Director-General Azevedo, in his address to Members in regard to the TFA, specifically witnessed in his speech to the latest Trade Negotiations Committee meeting on 25 June 2014.

"We strongly urge WTO members to ensure a proper functioning of the WTO secretariat in a manner that respects the member-driven nature of the organization," the letter concluded.

 


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