Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul14/15)
30 July 2014
Third World Network
Sydney G-20 meet ends
without agreement, only Chair's summary
Published in SUNS #7849 dated 22 July 2014
Geneva, 21 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- Trade Ministers of the G-20, at their
meeting over the weekend in Sydney, Australia, ended up with no agreement
but only a Chairman's summary that (as is customary at such meetings)
did not commit any of the participants.
According to the summary, participants appear to have expressed their
support for the full implementation of all elements of the package
of agreements at the ninth Bali Ministerial Conference in December
2013, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
The Chairman's Summary of 19 July, read out at the meeting by Australia's
Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb and made public thereafter,
said: "We undertook to show leadership in our support for the
full implementation of all elements of the Bali outcome agreed at
the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2013, including the
Agreement on Trade Facilitation, consistent with the agreed timelines."
"We agreed this is critical to securing a strong future for the
multilateral trading system. We reaffirmed the importance of capacity
building to help developing countries implement their commitments,"
the Chairman's summary added.
According to media reports from Sydney, India, however, appeared to
have taken a firm stance on the need for visible outcomes on the issue
of food security and the other Bali deliverables.
The Washington Trade Daily (WTD), in its report citing sources who
took part in the meeting, said that India and South Africa told the
meeting that they could only join the consensus on the Protocol of
Amendment (with respect to the Trade Facilitation Agreement) once
they have complete confidence that the remaining issues in the Bali
package - concerning development and agriculture, including a permanent
solution for food security - are fully addressed.
According to the WTD report, India, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil
said issues pertaining to agriculture and development have not been
squarely addressed in tandem with the TFA's Protocol, and not addressing
it head-on is raising a "crisis of confidence" in the world
trade body. Argentina said that TF was not a development issue, but
only a market access one for developed countries.
A Reuters news report from Sydney said that despite reassurances that
India received both at the meeting and in public later, Indian officials
had said on Sunday that they were not convinced.
The Reuters report quoted an Indian official as telling the Business
Standard: "The way things are moving, there is no way we can
agree to the trade facilitation agreement being pushed by the developed
nations at WTO within the prescribed deadline. Food security has always
been India's main concern and this time we are not going to concede."
[A report Monday in the Hindustan Times (HT, New Delhi), citing Indian
official sources, said India has made it clear that state-funded welfare
schemes for the poor are non-negotiable, and that it is willing to
take the blame for delaying the World Trade Organisation's (WTO's)
"trade facilitation" agreement rather than hurt the interests
of small farmers.
[Ahead of the WTO's two-day General Council meeting that begins on
Thursday, India has worked out a hard bargain strategy for drawing
up a permanent solution on food subsidies.
[India will seek a postponement of the Trade Facilitation Agreement
(TFA) to 31 December, from 31 July agreed upon at WTO Bali ministerial
last December... India will also insist on implementing the TFA only
as part of a single undertaking that includes a permanent solution
on food security, top government sources told HT. SUNS]
At a joint G-20 Trade Ministers' press conference on 19 July, Australia's
Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb was asked about the
TF Agreement and the 31 July deadline for the adoption of the Protocol
of Amendment, to which he replied that "we did have a couple
of countries that are concerned about the other elements (in the Bali
package) in addition to the trade facilitation - there are nine elements
to the Bali decision. Timetables were set for each one."
According to the transcript of the press conference that was made
publicly available, Robb said that every country there at the meeting
did reaffirm their commitment to all nine being completed.
"We certainly reached a decision - as a priority - over the next
nine days to seek a satisfactory solution to the concerns that a couple
of countries have got with the pace of some of these other measures
- the pace of attending to these other measures - but there was no
dissent on the significance, the importance and the timetable that's
laid out in the agreement that everyone signed."
Asked if there was any movement that he saw from the Indian delegation
and some of the concerns that they have raised in recent days regarding
possible renegotiation on food security and their position that they
may seek to hold up the implementation, Minister Robb said that he
did not think that it is a question of renegotiation.
In his view, everyone, including India, recommitted publicly to the
package. "It was very much, and has been as I understand it,
from some, some of the African nations had a concern about whether
they could - they had the wherewithal, the expertise and the funds
to properly implement the trade facilitation package."
"There was an announcement of a new facility that will be made
available. The United States confirmed that they spent a billion dollars
on helping developing countries with trade facilitation and that level
of commitment was ongoing. The Minister for the European Union said
that $400 million has been put aside. Australia committed extra monies;
another million dollars on top of the six million that we put in the
So, said Robb, the bottom line was that around the table, "assurances
were given which will be coordinated by the WTO, that no country will
be left behind in terms of their needs to implement this at the speed
that they wish to and of course the developing countries have got
a different timetable to the developed."
"The developed are expected to implement these things immediately
and the developing countries, to implement in a program that they
can properly absorb and fund - and be funded. But they'll be helped
with the funding and the technical expertise," Robb added.
"So, there is work to be done [over] the next few days to, I
think, even further satisfy India and maybe other countries. I think
the Africans are - I think their problem has been properly attended
to and I think there was strong resolution around the table that India's
issues too with food security would and should and will be addressed
as decided previously ... I think there'll be discussions about how
to satisfy India, that they won't be left behind."
Asked to elaborate on the specific concerns raised by India and the
response of the G20 member nations to those concerns during the meeting,
Robb said that "India did and has said for some days I think,
that they were concerned that ... one of their principal concerns
which was the food security issue which was very much a part of the
Bali package, that it would not be properly attended to. But the deadline
for that is in fact 2017 and it is somewhat, in a technical sense,
"So, the capacity to adopt those food security measures exists
and if it's not resolved by 2017, which everyone feels that it certainly
will be, but it just goes on. So, that was a comfort factor that has
been there for India but they have raised this concern and everyone
around the table gave a country commitment that they expected every
one of the measures to be properly introduced and India also said
that they still remain fully committed to the full package and the
timetable but still expressed reservations about what is the process
to ensure that their issue is properly addressed," he added.
"Now, discussions have been held over the last couple of days.
They will continue," he said, adding that the group did agree
that the first priority is to properly satisfy that concern sometime
in the next nine days and "then hopefully, life will move on
and the measures will come - that measure will come into effect on
Many countries indicated they're ready to sign up on the 31st and
immediately implement it including places like South Africa and China
and others, according to Minister Robb.
Earlier last week, India had reiterated the stand that it had taken
at a 2 July meeting of the Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation
on withholding consensus on a Protocol of Amendment with respect to
An official press release issued in New Delhi on 16 July cited the
Indian Commerce Ministry countering some Western media reports that
India was no longer blocking the adoption of the Protocol by linking
it to visible progress on food security and other Bali outcomes.
[A Reuters news agency report from India citing the Commerce Secretary
was picked up immediately in Washington by the Deputy US Trade Representative
and ambassador to the WTO, Mr. Michael Punke, who told a House committee
hearing and in media briefings therefter that India was no longer
blocking the TF protocol, and that he and the USTR would be discussing
it with India in Sydney. He had also been reported as making some
references to the US proposal tabled in Geneva (see SUNS #7848 dated
21 July 2014).
[In a reference to that paper, a flyer distributed at the meeting
by the US civil society group, Public Citizen, had depicted a portrait
of Marie Antoinette but with apparently Punke's face, and, parodying
her remarks, saying ‘Let them eat imports'. SUNS]
The Indian Commerce Ministry press release had said: "It seems
that by attributing ‘wrong statement' to India, an effort is being
made to divide developing countries who have taken a clear stand on
The press release quoted a statement made by India at the 2 July Preparatory
Committee and said that this reflected the correct position.
The Indian statement at the Committee had said: "Till we have
an assurance and visible outcomes which convince developing countries
that Members will engage in negotiations with commitment to find a
permanent solution on public stockholding and all other Bali deliverables,
especially those for the LDCs, India will find it difficult to join
the consensus on the Protocol of Amendment." (See SUNS #7848
dated 21 July 2014.)
On the eve of the G-20 Trade Ministers' meeting in Sydney, a large
group of civil society organisations and trade unions had also called
on the Trade Ministers and WTO Ambassadors to condition the entry
into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement to the conclusion and
fulfilment of the Development mandate of the Doha Round of trade negotiations.
(See SUNS #7848 dated 21 July 2014).
In the Chairman's Summary of 19 July, the G-20 Trade Ministers agreed
that trade is a vital engine of economic growth that creates quality
"We welcomed the individual contributions to domestic actions
to support trade growth that G20 members are taking as part of national
growth strategies, which aim to lift our collective GDP by more than
2 per cent above the current trajectory over the next five years."
They reaffirmed their G20 St Petersburg commitment to standstill and
roll back protectionist measures introduced since the Global Financial
Crisis, and urged other countries to address protectionist measures.
They also reaffirmed the importance of aid-for-trade as a means of
poverty reduction through the promotion of sustainable economic growth
in developing countries.
"We discussed global supply chain barriers and how domestic reform
and liberalising services will generate particularly large economic
gains because there is a compound effect on international competitiveness.
We agreed that barriers to trade in services hamper economic growth
and need to be addressed through both domestic reform and international
The G-20 Trade Ministers further said: "We committed ourselves
to build on the momentum from Bali to conclude the Doha Development
Round. We welcomed the efforts of the WTO Director-General, and undertook
to work with other WTO members, and each other, to achieve a balanced
and timely post-Bali work program by December 2014."