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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec14/03)
15 December 2014
Third World Network
 

WTO Members voice their views on upcoming post-Bali work
Published in SUNS #7936 dated 12 December 2014
 
Geneva, 11 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- The end-of-year General Council meeting on 10-11 December, amongst others, heard Members voicing a range of views on what priority issues they would like to see incorporated into the post-Bali work programme for concluding the Doha Round.
 
The General Council decision of 27 November on the post-Bali work has set a deadline of July 2015 for agreeing on the work programme that was mandated in the Bali Declaration.
 
The views of delegations at the General Council meeting on 10 December came following a statement by Director-General Roberto Azevedo under the agenda item of report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC).
 
In their interventions, developing countries, amongst others, stressed on the development dimension of the Doha Round and on special and differential treatment (S&D) for developing countries. They also said that the Rev. 4 draft agriculture modalities text of December 2008 and the Rev. 3 draft NAMA modalities text also of December 2008 should be the basis for the negotiations.
 
The G-20 said that agriculture is the key and will be the benchmark for the landing zone in the other areas of the negotiations.
 
STATEMENT BY THE CHAIR OF THE TNC
 
Speaking in his capacity as Chair of the TNC, the D-G recalled that the Special General Council meeting had taken the decisions which broke the impasse on the implementation of the Bali package, and "the task before us now is to deliver on the commitments that we made there."
 
Azevedo also reported that the first valid instrument of acceptance for the Trade Facilitation Agreement Protocol had been deposited by Hong Kong-China on Monday.
 
The new deadline of July 2015 for developing the work programme on the remaining DDA (Doha Development Agenda) issues already looms large, he said.
 
Consultations have restarted through the Negotiating Bodies, and he had met with the Negotiating Chairs twice already since then.
 
In a brief report on their work so far, he said Members are beginning to re-engage and put the work back on track. By the end of December most of the chairs will have convened meetings on the way forward - and further meetings are being planned for January.
 
"We need to keep building on this momentum," said the D-G, highlighting some ingredients that will be needed if members want to be successful.
 
"One first ingredient will be to maintain a sense of urgency. Second, when it comes to the substance, I think we need to take an approach that is reasonable and pragmatic."
 
He urged members to focus not only on "what is truly, truly important for you now - but also to think about what is doable."
 
Third, is the need for a very high degree of engagement from all delegations, and ensure that capitals are tuned in to the discussions. "Their engagement and readiness to make important political calls on how we move forward will be crucial."
 
Fourth, members' engagement will need to be deep, detailed and broad. An urgent, horizontal and reasonable but full engagement across the board is needed.
 
To this end, Azevedo said he plans to hold informal TNC meetings at the Heads of Delegations level starting on 21 January.
 
"2015 is going to be a big year for the WTO. We have important work to do and real deadlines to meet. We will hold our 10th Ministerial Conference. We will celebrate our 20th anniversary. So let's make sure that it's a year to remember," the D-G concluded.
 
DELEGATIONS' VIEWS ON POST-BALI WORK
 
Speaking following the report by the Chair of the TNC, Indonesia, on behalf of the G-33, said the development agenda of the Doha Round is critical and that special and differential treatment (S&D) is vitally important.
 
According to trade officials, Indonesia also stressed on the importance of food security, livelihood security and rural development issues, as well as the implementation of all Bali issues, in particular, the issue pertaining to public stockholding for food security purposes. It urged members to engage on the basis of the July proposal made by the G-33.
 
It said that Special Products (SP) and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) must be included. The Rev. 4 draft agriculture modalities text should be the basis for the negotiations.
 
Uganda, on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), said that in 2013, the LDCs' share in world merchandise trade was notoriously stuck at 1%, with a staggering deficit of US$60 billion, and that their participation in world services exports was not any better. It was a paltry 0.68 percent.
 
"We had a widening trade balance of commercial services and registered a deficit of US$41 billion. There is limited diversification and most of our members are net importers. The biggest challenge remains how to integrate into world services trade."
 
From the foregoing, it is no secret that the LDCs remain the weakest and the most vulnerable members of this Multilateral Trading System. "It is also unfortunately clear that we have fallen short of meeting the development aspirations of the framers of the Doha Declaration," said Uganda.
 
It recalled that on 21 July 2014, the LDCs had submitted a collective request to the Council for Trade in Services. The ultimate objective of that collective request on the operationalization of the LDCs services waiver is to help the LDCs increase their participation in services trade.
 
The LDCs had proposed 21 January 2015 as the date for the high-level meeting in line with the Ministerial Decision. However, in informal discussions held with members, the LDCs have tentatively agreed on 5-6 February 2015, taking into account some already scheduled calendar events.
 
Uganda said that the LDCs therefore look forward to the high-level meeting where non-LDC members in a position to do so shall indicate sectors and modes of supply where they intend to provide preferential treatment to LDC services and service suppliers, which have commercial value and promote economic benefits to them.
 
On the work programme, Uganda said that while agriculture will set the level of ambition in the negotiations, there should be balance between agriculture, NAMA and services. Development should be the centre of these negotiations and the principle of the Single Undertaking should be preserved in line with paragraph 47 (of the Doha Declaration).
 
"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," said Uganda.
 
On Special and Differential Treatment, the LDCs believe that work should proceed along the lines of the mandate enshrined in Paragraph 44 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration.
 
"People are always asking: what do LDCs want? Well, in response, we want to harvest legally binding and meaningful LDC specific outcomes across the board," said Uganda.
 
According to trade officials, Chinese Taipei, on behalf of the Recently Acceded Members (RAMs), said that the RAMs have already made extensive and deep commitments, much deeper than many previously acceding countries.
 
It said that the Rev. 4 agriculture and Rev. 3 NAMA texts should be the basis for future negotiations. The issues of agriculture, NAMA and services are inter-connected and should be tackled together. There is need to set objectives that are doable.
 
Lesotho, on behalf of the African Group, aligned itself with the ACP and LDC statements. It welcomed the adoption of the three General Council Decisions taken recently, adding that these decisions have indeed set the work of the DDA in motion.
 
The African Group also welcomed the establishment of the dedicated website for the TFAF (Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility), and looked forward towards its full operation in order to assist in facilitating the implementation (of the TFA). The Group looked forward to engaging with members in the weeks to come.
 
Brazil, on behalf of the G-20, said that there is need to follow the Doha mandate and for S&D. Agriculture is the key and will be the benchmark for the landing zone in other areas.
 
The Rev. 4 agriculture text remains the basis for a successful outcome. Export subsidies should be eliminated in line with the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of 2005 and the 2013 Bali outcome, it said.
 
Speaking for itself, Brazil said that the multilateral approach is the way forward as far as it is concerned.
 
Kenya, on behalf of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries, recalled the Group's deep appreciation for the decisions taken last week on food security, trade facilitation and on the post-Bali work program.
 
The decisions should help in restoring the momentum on the implementation of the Bali Package, it said.
 
From the ACP perspective, some members of the Group already have public stockholding policies for food security purposes in place and a number of their schemes contain elements of price support.
 
"While most ACP countries are well within their de minimis commitments, we should not completely discard any utility and certainty of the peace clause. On future schemes, ACP could benefit from a permanent solution that fully takes into account the situation and specific challenges facing ACP countries."
 
With respect to the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility, the ACP said, "we must now move quickly to fully operationalize it."
 
On the post-Bali work program, Kenya said that the ACP Group has now moved to the next phase of preparing a modalities-type work program as an input into the work of the TNC and the negotiating groups.
 
"Firstly, we must deliver the mandate on S&D and we are looking forward for constructive engagement. An outcome on S&D is critical in enhancing the development content of the DDA and to concluding the Doha Round. Secondly, on market access, we emphasize that our interests, in particular, the flexibilities, should be preserved based on Rev. 3 for NAMA and Rev. 4 for agriculture."
 
For services, the ACP Group emphasized the need for concrete commitments in sectors and modes of supply of export interest to the members of the Group which includes tourism; transport and travel; professional services, and other business services; and Mode 4.
 
In addition, "we must preserve the cardinal flexibilities for developing countries and LDCs inscribed in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in any approach that may surface."
 
The ACP Group strongly urged Members, in a position to do so, to participate in the LDC services waiver high level meeting and provide meaningful preferences in response to their collective request consistent with the timetable agreed by Ministers in Bali.
 
According to trade officials, Australia, on behalf of the Cairns Group, welcomed the resumption of work. The work programme needs to focus on what is doable. There also needs to be a balanced outcome and for balance in each of the three pillars in agriculture (domestic support, export competition and market access), it said.
 
Switzerland, for the G-10, said that it is keen to engage. The three pillars in agriculture are clearly interconnected and must be seen from the point of view of the overall Doha Development Agenda.
 
Guatemala, on behalf of the Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), called for a transparent, inclusive and bottom-up approach that allows all members to participate.
 
The development dimension is an objective that must be achieved. This is particularly important in agriculture, it said, adding that there needs to be focus on the Rev. 4 agriculture text as the basis for the negotiations. The flexibilities in the Rev. 3 NAMA text should be extended and maintained for SVEs.
 
Jordan, on behalf of the Arab Group, said that there should be no new issues until the Doha Round is concluded. The Single Undertaking is the only principle to ensure the right balance. It also stressed on S&D.
 
India (represented by Ambassador Anjali Prasad) associated itself with the G-20 and G-33 statements. It said that members are entering an important phase in the negotiations.
 
"It is our shared responsibility to step up our efforts to prepare a clearly defined post-Bali Work Program on the remaining DDA issues central to the conclusion of the Round, as mandated in Para 1.11 of the Bali Ministerial Declaration, as well as advancing the discussion on all Bali Ministerial and related subsequent Decisions."
 
According to India, the ambition levels on the market access pillars - agriculture, NAMA and services, and in clarifying and improving disciplines in various negotiating areas would need coherence.
 
It is understood that the level of ambition across the negotiating areas would be governed by agriculture. A search for the right level of ambition is an important exercise, which would require a frank exchange of views among members in the coming days and weeks. This will need to be done respecting the existing mandate and progress already achieved in the negotiations, so far, it said.
 
India further said, "we have an opportunity in this Round to correct the inequities and imbalances in global trade rules, particularly in agriculture. Equally important would be to ensure outcomes that deliver on the promise of ‘development' in the most effective manner and ensure that trade works as an engine of growth and development with substantial benefits for the weakest members of the WTO."
 
Members should seek equitable, balanced and development-oriented outcomes through an inclusive and transparent process, while respecting the spirit of para 47 of the Doha Declaration, it said.
 
India said it has never been enthusiastic about selective segmentation of the negotiating mandate. "We should, therefore, desist from any temptation towards cherry picking issues for early harvests. Instead we should work towards seeking balanced progress in all areas of the negotiations so as to arrive at an early conclusion of the Round."
 
According to trade officials, Cuba said that agriculture will determine the level of ambition and that the Rev. 4 agriculture text should be the basis for the negotiations.
 
Zimbabwe supported the African Group and ACP statements.
 
China supported the G-33, G-20 and the RAM statements. The Rev. 4 agriculture and Rev. 3 NAMA texts should be the basis for the negotiations.
 
According to trade officials, the United States, on the post-Bali work programme, said that members need to work in a way that offers sensible ways to move forward. It is fully engaged in evaluating agriculture, NAMA and services. Members need to start looking at a horizontal approach and to strike a balance between ambition and doability.
 
On the ITA-II talks (on expanding the product coverage under the Information Technology Agreement), the US said that the ITA negotiations can send a very important signal at the end of the year. It is a critical week for the ITA talks. It said that this would be the first tariff-cutting agreement in the WTO since ITA-I (which was agreed in 1996 but implemented in 1997).
 
Expressing concerns over statements made by some governments about not favouring plurilateral agreements, the US said that there is a very important multilateral element to the ITA.
 
According to the US, while there are only 54 participants, the important multilateral side to this is the benefit, in that the tariff elimination (on IT products) in these 54 countries would be extended to all WTO members via the MFN principle.
 
Argentina endorsed the G-20 and Cairns Group statements. It stressed that agriculture is the most important element in the negotiations, the backbone of development in the Doha Round. Export subsidies must be eliminated, it added.
 
The European Union said that members need to move forward in the best possible conditions. It cited parallelism, simplification and proper respect for red-lines.
 
SEYCHELLES' ACCESSION TO THE WTO
 
Under a separate agenda item, the General Council formally adopted the Protocol of Accession and the Working Party Report of the Republic of Seychelles, paving the way for it to become the 161st member of the WTO.
 
Seychelles had applied for membership to the WTO back in 1995 and the Working Party on its accession had concluded negotiations this October.
 
The Seychelles parliament will now have to ratify the accession package by 1 June 2015, and it will become a member of the WTO 30 days after it notifies the Secretariat of the ratification.
 
According to information posted on the WTO website, in the area of goods, Seychelles has undertaken to bind tariff rates for all products at 9.5 per cent on average. For agricultural products, the average is 16.9 per cent, and for non-agricultural products, the average is 8.3 per cent. Seychelles has also made specific commitments in 11 services sectors, including 97 sub-sectors.
 
At a media briefing following the signing of the Protocol of Accession by Mr Pierre Laporte, Minister of Finance, Trade and Investment of the Seychelles, Director-General Azevedo congratulated Seychelles for concluding the accession negotiations, saying that the process was a long one.
 
"We had 20 years to get here," he said, adding however that the more intense negotiations took place in the last five years.
 
He said that the accession to the WTO is just a platform to enhance the integration of the acceding member into the global economy - in this case Seychelles - to boost growth and development in that country.
 
He highlighted that this is a particularly important year whereby the International Year of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is being celebrated. He added that approximately 98% of world trade is now being covered by the WTO with the accession of Seychelles.
 
Minister Laporte said that the accession process was a very arduous one. Being a small island economy is even more important for Seychelles as to why it has to be part of the international institutions, he added.
 
He said that the Seychelles accession package will now be taken to Parliament and (he will) try to have it ratified before the end of December or early next year and "we are confident that Seychelles by all means will be a WTO member in the first quarter of 2015."
 
DATE AND VENUE OF MC10
 
Under another agenda item, the General Council agreed that Nairobi, Kenya will be the host city for the WTO's tenth session of its Ministerial Conference (MC10) to take place from 15-18 December 2015.
 
According to trade officials, Ms Amina C. Mohammed, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Kenya, who was present in Geneva for the General Council meeting, said that President Kenyatta had asked to convey his sincere and heartfelt appreciation for choosing Kenya as host for MC10.
 
She said that they are not only representing Kenya but have presented their candidacy on behalf of the whole of Africa - 42 WTO Members and those in the process of accession. So, they are accepting this on behalf of the whole of the African continent.
 
As to what Africa and Kenya in particular would like to achieve at MC10, she said that Africa would like to see that at least two-thirds of WTO members, if not all, have ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement, so that it would be in force by that time.
 
Ms Mohammed also said that Africa and Kenya would like to see a broad-based and balanced post-Bali work programme achieved by the target date of 31 July 2015. It needs to be something that responds to the current situation in the global economy.
 
According to trade officials, Turkey, which had earlier withdrawn its own candidacy to host MC10, thanked Ms Mohammed, saying that her presence here is a very encouraging and reassuring signal that there will be a successful organisation of MC10. +

 


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