Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec14/01)
3 December 2014
Third World Network
adopted on TFA, food security and post-Bali work
Published in SUNS #7927 dated 1 December 2014
Geneva, 28 Nov (Kanaga Raja) -- A special meeting of the General Council
of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Thursday adopted three draft
decisions on the Protocol of Amendment to the Trade Facilitation Agreement
(TFA), on public stockholding for food security purposes and on the
post-Bali work programme.
The adoption of the Protocol of Amendment will result in the insertion
of the TFA into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement where it will be placed
after the Agreement on Safeguards.
The Protocol will enter into force in accordance with paragraph 3
of Article X of the WTO Agreement. It will need to be ratified by
two-thirds of the WTO's membership for it to come into force, i. e.
107 ratifications out of a membership of 160. There is however no
deadline set for when this will be achieved.
This decision also means that the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility
that was launched back in July will now become operational.
With respect to the decision on public stockholding for food security
purposes, the Bali decision on this issue will remain in place until
a permanent solution is agreed and adopted.
Until such a permanent solution (whose detailed outcome or legal instrument
is not prejudged) is adopted, and provided the conditions set out
in Bali are met, Members shall not challenge through the WTO Dispute
Settlement Mechanism, compliance of a developing Member with its obligations
under Articles 6.3 and 7.2 (b) of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA)
in relation to support provided for traditional staple food crops
in pursuance of public stockholding programmes for food security purposes
existing as of the date of the Bali decision.
The decision does not cover challenges under the Subsidies and Countervailing
According to the decision, Members are to engage constructively to
negotiate and make all concerted efforts to agree and adopt a permanent
solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes
by 31 December 2015.
It also says that if a permanent solution for the issue of public
stockholding for food security purposes is not agreed and adopted
by the 11th Ministerial Conference (to be held in 2017), the mechanism
(referred to in paragraph 1 of the Bali Decision, and as set out in
paragraph 1 of this Decision) shall continue to be in place until
a permanent solution is agreed and adopted.
The decision further states that negotiations on a permanent solution
shall be held in the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session,
in dedicated sessions and in an accelerated time-frame.
The decision on a post-Bali work programme on a priority basis for
legally binding outcomes on other Bali ministerial decisions is for
transforming nine Bali best endeavour decisions into legally binding
These are four decisions in agriculture and five in the development
dossier. The agriculture decisions cover tariff-rate quota administration,
export competition and phasing out of cotton subsidies. Issues in
the development dossier comprise preferential access for services
suppliers in least-developed countries, and duty-free and quota-free
market access for least developed countries. The work on other parts
of the Doha Development Agenda is included in a preamble to the actual
According to the decision on post-Bali work, work shall resume immediately
and all Members shall engage constructively on the implementation
of all the Bali Ministerial Decisions in the relevant WTO bodies,
including on the preparation of a clearly defined work program on
the remaining DDA issues as mandated in paragraph 1.11 of the Bali
As per paragraph 1.11 of the Bali Declaration, Members agree that
the issues of the Bali package where legally binding outcomes could
not be achieved, including LDC issues, shall be pursued on priority.
The deadline for agreeing on the work program mandated in the Bali
Declaration shall be July 2015. (See SUNS #7923 dated 25 November
2014 and #7925 dated 27 November 2014 for the full texts of the three
D-G STATEMENT AT GENERAL COUNCIL AND COMMENTS TO MEDIA
In his statement at the General Council meeting, Director-General
Azevedo said that by agreeing these three decisions "we have
put ourselves back in the game. We have put our negotiating work back
on track - that means all the Bali decisions: trade facilitation,
public stockholding, the LDC issues, the decisions on agriculture,
development, and all of the other elements. And we have given ourselves
the chance to prepare the post-Bali work program."
But, crucially, he added, during this process "we have seen a
renewed commitment to the multilateral system."
Nevertheless, "we need to find an easier way of doing things.
While we have seen renewed commitment to the WTO, the truth is that
we must avoid repeatedly putting ourselves in this position. We have
lost precious time since July, and it goes without saying that we
can't wait another two decades to deliver further multilateral outcomes.
We have to think about how we can operate in a more efficient way."
Speaking at a media briefing following the General Council meeting,
Azevedo explained that since July there was an impasse in the implementation
of the Bali issues, "which had a paralysing effect on the negotiations
in all areas."
The impasse related to the political link that was established between
two Bali decisions, one on the public stockholding programmes for
food security purposes and the other being on the Trade Facilitation
Agreement, he added.
He said that the General Council's first decision clarified the Bali
decision on public stockholding for food security purposes, and makes
clear that the ‘peace clause', agreed in Bali, will remain in force
until a permanent solution to that issue is found.
It also states that members shall make all efforts to negotiate a
permanent solution by 31 December 2015. This is an advance of the
original target date - the eleventh Ministerial Conference in 2017.
The second decision adopts the Protocol of Amendment which formally
inserts the Trade Facilitation Agreement into the WTO rule book, and
this clears the path for the Trade Facilitation Agreement to be implemented
and to come into force.
The third decision concerns the WTO's post-Bali work. With this decision,
members committed to resume this work immediately and engage constructively
on the implementation of all Bali Ministerial Decisions including
the work programme on the remaining DDA issues. Members also agreed
that the deadline for agreeing the work programme will now be July
2015, he said.
Asked to comment on the fact that the issue of trade facilitation
was dropped from the Doha agenda back in 2003 at Cancun and it has
now come back but that nothing has been done on the core issues such
as agriculture, the so-called engine of the Doha agenda, the D-G said
that as he remembered it when he was here in 1997 even before the
Doha Round was launched and after it was launched, one of the reasons
why trade facilitation was dropped from the agreement "was precisely
because people thought it was too difficult. That was one of the reasons."
Reiterating this, Azevedo insisted that trade facilitation was dropped
because it was very difficult and also "because at the time the
approach that was taken did not get consensus."
[Trade observers noted that all the Singapore issues figured on the
agenda at Cancun, for launching negotiations on all four by express
consensus. However, all four issues met with resistance. At that stage,
EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy, in the Green Room, offered to take
off the agenda other Singapore issues, but wanted at least the trade
facilitation issue. However, a large number of countries not in the
Green Room (ACP, LDCs etc) and kept out of the negotiations (with
the then D-G Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, meeting them and conveying
from time to time what was happening in the Green Room), refused to
agree and the Cancun meeting collapsed.
[After some talks in Geneva, at the July 2004 General Council, a compromise
for resuming work on the Doha Development Agenda was agreed. The WTO
on its web site, has posted the entire July 2004 package decision.
This notes, under item 1 (g) of that decision, that "negotiations
on TF was launched by express consensus", on the basis of the
study and work done on it in the Council for Trade in Goods. - SUNS]
Azevedo said that the fact that a very large number of developing
countries were now hailing this agreement, saying that this is important
for them, and that they want it done and implemented, "tells
you something about the developmental elements that are present in
"To say today that this agreement is not part of a development
agenda I think would be misleading, to say the least," he claimed.
"We adopted today a General Council decision on the post-Bali
work. And that puts all of the Bali decisions, and that puts the work
programme for the conclusion of the Doha Development Round, back on
a priority basis on the table," he further said.
In response to a question, he cited an estimate that 5-15% of transaction
costs could be reduced through the Trade Facilitation Agreement, and
that some economists have estimated that the benefits to the world
economy from the TFA could go up to $1 trillion, and that 21 million
jobs could be created across the world.
STATEMENTS BY SOME DELEGATIONS AT GENERAL COUNCIL
In its statement at the General Council meeting, India (represented
by Ambassador Ms Anjali Prasad), said that the adoption of three important
decisions by the Council on Public Stockholding for Food Security
Purposes; the Protocol of Amendment to insert the Trade Facilitation
Agreement into Annex 1A of the Marrakesh Agreement; and on Post-Bali
work, is a clear testimony to the fact that if members show understanding
towards each other's concerns and demonstrate political will, "it
is possible to find a solution that meets with our common needs and
"It is indeed an important milestone in the history of the WTO
as we agree to annex the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, the first
multilateral agreement since the WTO was established," said India.
Looking ahead, India urged members to engage constructively in advancing
discussion on all the Bali Ministerial Decisions.
"We would need to redouble our efforts to prepare a clearly defined
post-Bali Work Program on the remaining DDA issues as mandated in
Para 1.11 of the Bali Ministerial Declaration. The adoption of a permanent
solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes
is an important objective for us. We urge the membership to engage
on the subject in the spirit of the decision adopted by us today."
India said that as work is resumed towards achieving a balanced and
successful conclusion of the DDA in accordance with the mandate given
by Ministers, "we cannot afford to lose sight of the ‘development
On its part, India will engage constructively with members in the
coming days to seek balanced outcomes that yield the ‘development
dividend' of the Round.
Lesotho, on behalf of the African Group, said: "Our Bali and
post-Bali journey has not been an easy one, yet it is in such excruciating
journeys that great lessons are learned. It is therefore a fervent
hope of the African Group that as Members gear themselves up to engaging
in other post-Bali decisions, such lessons will not be cast out into
oblivion. Rather they should guide our path in the next phase of our
Some of these lessons include the importance of ensuring that outcomes
are fully negotiated by all Members with sufficient time for consultations
and accompanying conducive environment, said Lesotho.
"Moreover, we have learned that through cooperation and spirit
of partnership WTO can thrive and deliver balanced outcomes, with
all Members across developed and developing countries divide making
essential contributions thereby striking win-win beneficial outcomes."
The African Group said: "We certainly cannot discount the fact
that there are also areas where the organization can do better and
every effort should be made to ensure that the WTO negotiations are
truly inclusive and transparent in every way possible."
The Group welcomed the momentous adoption of the Trade Facilitation
protocol of amendment, the decision on public stockholding for food
security purposes and the decision on post-Bali work.
The adoption of the texts is the first step that would lead to the
realization of the objectives set out therein. There is no doubt that
a lot of time and effort went into today's milestone, the Group observed.
While recognizing that nothing is absolute and that there is always
room for improvement, the Group said that it suffices to mention that
today`s milestone, once and for all, seals the unencumbered operation
of the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF).
In this setting, the African Group took this opportunity to lodge
an appeal to the donor community to furnish the TFAF with requisite
The African Group looked forward to constructively engaging with Members
in the context of further steps on the adopted decision including
on the public stockholding decision for food security purposes and
post-Bali work program.
The Group further looked forward to building on today's success in
the context of the Post-Bali Work Program.
Uganda, on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), said that
the LDCs support the deal that has been constructed and presented
today. "We join consensus in endorsing the adoption of the Protocol
of Amendment of the Trade Facilitation Agreement; the General Council
Decision on Public Stock Holding for Food Security Purposes; and the
General Council Decision on Post-Bali work."
The LDC Group said that it is important to recall that during deliberations
in the TF Prepcom it had highlighted the fears that its members had
due to the lack of clarity on where the source of funding was to facilitate
the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
"We are happy to associate ourselves with the Trade Facilitation
Agreement Facility that was established to provide that sense of clarity
that we were looking for. It may be true that this is not the best
outcome but it will be used as a stepping stone to address the requisite
needs and challenges posed by the need for Assistance and Support
for Capacity Building."
Uganda also noted that the decision of the General Council captures
some of the elements that the LDCs wanted to see such as a reference
to Paragraph 47 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration.
"We can also live with the language on assistance and support
for capacity building. In our view, it gives us a degree of assurance
we were looking for."
The LDC Group said: "This is not the best deal but it is one
nonetheless that puts us back on the highway to negotiate legally
binding and meaningful LDC specific outcomes. After today, we shall
know whether indeed members were genuine when they said that we could
get back to business as usual and conclude the Doha round."
"We shall know whether in fact the Trade Facilitation Agreement
was not the only thing that these set of members wanted to see concluded
out of the Doha Development Agenda," it said.
Uganda recalled that the LDCs submitted their Collective Request on
the Operationalization of the LDCs Services Waiver on 21 July of this
"We are looking to hold a High Level Meeting in mid-January 2015
consistent with Paragraph 1.2 of the Waiver Decision, where non-LDCs
in a position to do so would indicate areas where they would grant
preferences. To that end therefore, we are looking to the participation
of all non-LDC Members in the high-level meeting to be held in mid-January
and also for those members to grant meaningful preferences to LDCs
consistent with the waiver decision."
The LDCs also welcomed the decision on the Post-Bali Work. "We
spent too much time, discussing this and that and got nowhere. We
take note of the fact that all issues in the Bali package where legally
binding outcomes could not be achieved, including LDC issues will
be prioritised. It is our hope that this will now lead us to a track
where we shall be able to craft a work program with the view to concluding
the remaining elements of the Doha Round without introducing new issues,
with development at the centre."
Uganda said that the current situation of LDCs should not please anyone,
"in fact on the contrary all of us should be working towards
the graduation of all LDCs."
"This is probably what informed Ministers in Doha to seek to
put our issues at the heart of the work program and also to continue
to make positive efforts designed to ensure that developing countries,
and especially the least- developed among them, secure a share in
the growth of world trade commensurate with the needs of their economic
"We should not let the July events go to waste. We have to, and
we owe it to posterity to take lessons from these events. Otherwise,
we shall be accused of having learnt nothing and forgotten nothing."
On the LDCs' part, Uganda said, "we have learnt that when a system
consistently fails to deliver for many of its members; when a section
of its members perpetually dwell in abject poverty and hunger with
dreams far from reach; a time comes when the status quo is challenged.
We have also learnt that negotiated outcomes that are heavily tilted
in favour of one party are not sustainable."
Kenya, on behalf of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group,
commended the US and India for their constructive role in resolving
the impasse, adding that the ACP Group supports the package as put
On the Bali public stockholding decision, the ACP welcomed the improvement
on clarification of the peace clause which shall remain in force until
a permanent solution is put in place.
It also welcomed the target date of 31 December 2015 for adoption
of an agreement on a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding
for food security.
On the decision on the Protocol of Amendment, the ACP said it is very
pleased that some of the textual proposals from the ACP Group have
been taken on board in the trade facilitation decision. The adoption
of the trade facilitation package should now allow the Trade Facilitation
Facility to be operationalized.
It urged its donor partners to generously contribute resources to
the Facility which will complement the efforts of the developing and
least developed countries in the implementation of their commitments
under the Agreement on Trade Facilitation.
It also urged the Director-General to reach out to donor institutions
with a view to soliciting their contribution towards realizing the
objectives of the Trade Facilitation Facility.
On the Post-Bali work program, the ACP endorsed the proposed separate
decision on extension of the post-Bali work program deadline to 31
The group placed high importance to resuming work on the mandate from
Ministers to define a post-Bali work program. It looked forward to
expedited work in this regard, notwithstanding the agreement today
to move the deadline forward to July next year.
"We have done a lot of work and also useful ideas have been floated
in our informal discussions since February and which we can build
on to finalize post-Bali work programme," said the ACP Group.
The ACP Group said it is ready to engage constructively and had already
tabled a document, in October, before the Trade Negotiations Committee
which highlighted the principles that the Group considered as paramount
in defining post-Bali work program.
In its statement at the General Council, the European Union said it
certainly is a very important day in the history of the WTO and of
the Multilateral Trading System (MTS).
According to the EU, the message from Geneva is two-fold: (1) The
WTO has taken three decisions, each one important on its own merits;
(2) Even if things cannot be easy at this place and setbacks may happen,
Members are ready and able to sit down and work through their differences.
Over the last weeks, the WTO was very much in the spotlight and some
again believed that failure was inevitable - but we have all proved
they were wrong. These are indeed very good news for all of us.
Today's decisions do not only implement the landmark Bali agreements,
they also confirm the WTO's role as the centre of international trade
policy, said the EU.
According to the EU, the TF Agreement is a key achievement in this
respect. It will smoothen trade, bring more transparency to traders
and help developing countries become more involved in global trade
The EU said that it will support developing countries to implement
and will contribute to the necessary funding to ensure that "we
all move in the right direction. We all now need to expedite the ratification
process in order to allow the agreement to enter into force as soon
The EU said that it is also pleased with the result achieved on public
stockholding. The EU has always considered food security an international
priority and has actively supported efforts to find suitable solutions
at the WTO.
"We now need to turn our attention to Post Bali and the DDA negotiations,"
said the EU, adding that it remains a strong believer in the benefits
of multilateral trade agreements and considers the conclusion of the
DDA a strategic priority.
"It is high time that we agree on a work programme that puts
us on a clear, realistic and credible path towards the conclusion
of the round."
Meanwhile, in a statement from Washington, US Trade Representative
Michael Froman said: "The WTO has taken a critical step forward
by breaking the impasse that has prevailed since July. I am pleased
that the United States was able to work with India and other WTO members
to find an approach that preserved the letter and spirit of the package
of decisions reached at last year's Bali Ministerial Conference."
"The Trade Facilitation Agreement has the potential to fundamentally
reform global customs practices and substantially reduce the costs
and time associated with goods crossing borders. It's a perfect example
of how breaking down barriers to trade can unlock new opportunities
for developed and developing countries alike, and it's a particularly
important win for small and medium-sized businesses in all countries."
USTR Froman further said: "With this win under the WTO's belt,
we can once again focus our efforts on revitalizing the organization's
core negotiating functions." +