BACK TO MAIN  |  ONLINE BOOKSTORE  |  HOW TO ORDER

TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb15/07)
27 February 2015
Third World Network

 
South stress on development, LDC issues in post-Bali work
Published in SUNS #7970 dated 26 February 2015
 
Geneva, 25 Feb (Kanaga Raja) - The meeting of the WTO General Council on 20 February heard a number of developing countries calling for high priority to be accorded to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) issues, and for the development dimension to be at the centre of the post-Bali work programme for concluding the Doha Round.
 
In their interventions and comments on the report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), the developing countries also stressed that the Rev. 4 draft agriculture modalities text and the Rev.3 draft NAMA modalities text be the basis for the negotiations.
 
They further called for a transparent, inclusive and bottom-up approach in the negotiations on defining the work programme.
 
At the meeting, Director-General Roberto Azevedo, as Chair of the TNC, had provided an overview of the progress to date on each of the Doha negotiating areas including agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA), services, rules, TRIPS issues, trade and environment, trade and development, and the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) negotiations.
 
"Progress is slow, but we are moving forward," the D-G had said. Substantive positions have not changed a great deal since the last time these issues were discussed, but the tone of the discussions has been more positive, he added. (See SUNS #7968 dated 24 February 2015.)
 
DELEGATIONS' VIEWS ON POST-BALI WORK
 
According to trade officials, Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Arab Group, indicated its strong support for the multilateral trading system and the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). The deadlines for the implementation of the Bali decisions must be respected.
 
It said that Recently Acceded Members (RAMs) should have additional flexibilities. Many of these countries had undertaken extensive commitments as part of their accession process and this needs to be recognised.
 
Saudi Arabia also stressed that the development dimension must be the overarching principle.
 
Burkina Faso, on behalf of the Cotton-4, said that it is essential that the resolution of the cotton issue be a part of the Bali work programme, and that there are deliverables to be had by the 31 July deadline.
 
It appealed to all stakeholders to give high priority to cotton to ensure appropriate answers to the problems that are being faced by west African cotton growers.
 
It would also like to have an agreement in all areas by the Nairobi Ministerial Conference (to be held from 15-18 December this year).
 
Chinese Taipei, on behalf of the RAMs, said that agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and services are at the centre of these negotiations. They need to be tackled in parallel and that sequencing (of these issues) is not an option.
 
The post-Bali work programme should be something doable, and the level of ambition must be something affordable for all members. Having said this, it stressed that the level of ambition must be more than nothing.
 
Referring to comments from members that the Rev. 4 agriculture and Rev. 3 NAMA texts are the preferred starting point for the negotiations, it noted that it had heard from some members that they would like to have new proposals considered.
 
It urged these members to translate ideas such as request-and-offer approach, average tariff cuts and tariff simplification into concrete proposals as soon as possible so that there can be real traction in terms of the negotiations and engagement.
 
The flexibilities accorded to developing countries, the LDCs and the RAMs that are contained in the texts need to be taken into account, it said.
 
The RAMs have already made deep concessions and these need to be taken into account, it said, adding that there is need to adhere to the mandates of the Doha Ministerial Declaration, the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration and the July framework.
 
Other countries should at the minimum be prepared to do as much as the RAMs have done as part of their accession process.
 
The percentage of tariff lines that are duty-free in the RAMs is higher than the WTO average and the percentage of tariff lines that are tariff peaks are lower. Members should see this as an example.
 
Brazil said that it would like to see considerable levels of ambition in all three pillars of agriculture - export competition, domestic support and market access - as well as in cotton.
 
The United States said that in its view, the past few weeks have been a relatively productive period in the development of a post-Bali work programme for the Doha Development Agenda (DDA).
 
"We have been in a necessary process of ‘connecting the dots' in the current landscape of the DDA and dealing honestly and directly with the picture that is revealed. When we connect the dots, what is revealed, undeniably, is that we are nowhere near consensus. We are quite distant from a common view of what a work program should look like, or how it could realistically enable us to conclude the Round in a manner that works for everyone, and that can be accomplished in a relatively rapid timeframe."
 
The US claimed there are now clear indications from a number of members, both developed and developing, that the Rev. 3 text in NAMA is not a viable basis for concluding the negotiations, while others remain attached to that text.
 
Another example, in the US view, is the very stark presentation of facts regarding Rev. 4 (agriculture text), demonstrating that only one Member - namely, the United States - would be required to cut into current domestic support programmes, while Members whose programmes have grown exponentially since 2008 would make no meaningful contribution.
 
"Meanwhile, those Members have stated clearly their expectation that this mind-boggling imbalance, which would clearly fall short of any true effort to reform trade-distorting agricultural subsidies, should be preserved. Using the lexicon of the WTO, we view that as blood for water - or, blood for air - which is simply not an outcome that we could endorse."
 
In the US' view, "we must continue to re-calibrate. We are collectively better positioned than we were a few weeks ago to really start tackling the question of what re-calibration means."
 
The US noted that during one of the recent informal meetings in Room W (at the WTO), there was a refreshingly direct exchange on the concept of "differentiation" in the roles and contributions of developing country members.
 
The US said that it wants to be clear about what it does, and does not, mean when it refers to differentiation.
 
"We do not mean that we are seeking a new categorization of members within the WTO. We are not talking about ‘graduation'. We recognize such a discussion would result in endless debate and no outcome, and furthermore it is not what we need in order to accomplish a reasonable outcome."
 
What the US means, for example, "is that a developing country member that today maintains very significant agricultural domestic support programs and has the productive capacity to affect global markets will necessarily have to participate in negotiations, and contribute to outcomes, in ways that are different than developing countries that don't have such programs."
 
According to the US, such developing countries "are different from other developing countries, and we cannot succeed if we pretend otherwise. But let me also be clear: the United States is not seeking new market access outcomes in Doha from those WTO Members who would not have applied the formula under the existing NAMA framework."
 
"We are simply trying to prompt an honest discussion of world trade as it exists today and to foster an outcome that reflects real world trade dynamics. None of this requires any revision of categories within this institution, but it does implicate the need for a flexible approach that recognizes that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach for development," said the US.
 
Bangladesh, on behalf of the LDCs, said that this is a crucial year for the WTO, and highlighted the need to get an agreement on the post-Bali work programme by the end of July.
 
On the LDC-specific issues, it noted that there was a meeting held on rules of origin and a high-level meeting on the LDC services waiver.
 
There has been good progress but much work needs to be done, it said.
 
It cited a recent report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) that pointed out that the current account deficits of the LDCs are widening to $40 billion, and added that this is likely to widen further on account of falling commodity prices.
 
It is very important that the issues of importance to the LDCs be concluded by 31 July, it said.
 
On the services waiver for the LDCs, it would like to see those countries that had made pledges at the high-level meeting on 5 February to make notifications locking in those pledges by the deadline of 31 July.
 
It does not want to see coming out of any post-Bali work programme a situation that would land the LDCs in a worse position than other non-LDC members.
 
It would also like to see positive decisions on duty-free quota-free market access (DFQF) for LDC products.
 
Lesotho, on behalf of the African Group, endorsed the LDC and Cotton-4 statements. It is encouraged by what it had seen with respect to more focused and specific discussion particularly on agriculture.
 
It was of the view that the Rev. 4 draft agriculture modalities text is a good starting point.
 
Trade-distorting domestic support is an issue for the African Group, it said, adding that it would like to see good disciplines in terms of overall trade-distorting domestic support levels, as well as product-specific caps.
 
Barbados, on behalf of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group, said that it wants to see a good outcome on the post-Bali work programme by the stipulated deadline, with the concept of the development dimension being preserved and at the front and centre.
 
It would also like to see the issues of importance to LDCs be addressed, and the Rev.4 agriculture text and the Rev. 3 NAMA text be reflected in any outcome.
 
The issue of long-standing preference erosion and the LDC issues are of crucial importance to the Group, it said.
 
Guatemala, on behalf of the Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), stressed the importance of a transparent, inclusive and bottom-up process.
 
The important principles that have been highlighted in the various Ministerial declarations must be preserved, it said.
 
It is also important that in the discussions, the flexibilities that have been obtained by the SVEs in the draft texts are recognised.
 
The European Union said that the success of Bali has given the WTO another opportunity, perhaps its last, to come to a successful conclusion of the DDA, and "it is our fundamental and collective responsibility not to miss this opportunity."
 
In this context, the EU said, "we need to maintain the focus of our efforts on exploring what can be done and achieved today, and not on what we would have liked to get 14 years ago at the time of the Round's launch, or 7 years ago when we were so close to a deal."
 
The EU said that it is ready to continue to look to creative solutions in all areas, as long as everyone else is willing to do the same. All of the core issues need to be taken forward in parallel and will have to achieve commensurate levels of ambition.
 
Still, the EU accepts that agriculture may determine what will and won't be possible in the DDA overall, keeping in mind, however, that finally a balance will be needed within the agriculture pillar as between all the areas of a possible outcome.
 
On the next steps, the EU agreed with the D-G that it is crucial at this stage that the necessary technical work is taken forward.
 
The market access pillar - in both Agriculture and NAMA - is a particular case in point. The need for a simpler, more realistic market access approach has been stressed by a large number of members during the conversations up until now, it said.
 
Useful work on non-core issues like Rules and TRIPS could also move forward aiming at exploring what elements could realistically be part first of the Work Programme and then of a possible DDA outcome, it added.
 
According to the EU, the first weeks of this year have shown that slowly but surely Members are beginning to open to the idea and to converge towards the need of exploring possible realistic solutions in all areas.
 
"This is the mind-set that we need in order to advance and to keep our July work programme deadline as well as to see concrete results by MC10."
 
According to trade officials, China associated itself with the statement by the RAMs. There is need to sow seeds now so that members can achieve an ambitious and detailed post-Bali work programme by 31 July and have a result by MC10 (the Nairobi Ministerial).
 
There is need for adherence to the Doha and Hong Kong Ministerial mandates, as well as the Bali mandate and to the 2004 framework.
 
On the issue of domestic support, China said that it is very important not to mix up different kinds of domestic support.
 
There are different natures and different purposes, as well as different histories and different per capita sizes with respect to domestic support programmes, it said.
 
There are programmes that support big rich farmers for commercial purposes and there are those that support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of small poor farmers, it underlined.
 
Members must build on the work of the Rev. 4 agriculture text and the Rev. 3 NAMA text, said China.
 
While there is need for re-calibration, there is need to take care of members' comfort levels in terms of dealing with any re-calibration. There should not be any scenarios in which only a few members suffer discomfort.
 
China also stressed on the need for a transparent and inclusive approach. It said that re-calibration should be non-discriminatory, and if there is a readjustment for some, it must apply to all.
 
China pointed out that the Doha Development Agenda is a development round. Special and differential treatment (S&D) and the principle of less than full reciprocity and flexibilities for the LDCs must be preserved.
 
Cuba stressed on a transparent and inclusive process. The post-Bali work programme must include all of the Doha issues and have priority for the developing countries.
 
We can re-calibrate but the mandate should not be re-interpreted, it said. It endorsed the development dimension mandate, saying that this must be preserved.
 
The flexibilities that apply to some countries - and even to specific countries - must also be preserved, it said.
 
India said that an intensive process of engagement has begun, and that members are in the process of developing a clearly defined post-Bali work programme.
 
There is need to seek the right level of ambition starting with agriculture, it said, adding that the existing mandate has to be respected, as well as the progress that has already been achieved.
 
We must seek equitable, balanced and development-oriented outcomes through a transparent and inclusive process, it said, adding that trade for development is the objective of this round. It is not a round designed to enhance market access.
 
The global trading system is highly inequitable and trade does not necessarily lead to development, it said.
 
It stressed the importance of policy space. Trade for commercial purposes that impinges on policy space cannot deliver development, it said, adding that there is need to level the playing field.
 
Japan expressed frustration over the slow progress that is being made, saying that some countries are simply repeating their basic positions going back a long time.
 
Paraguay said that members are having frank discussions but don't have a clear idea of what they are seeking. It said that export competition needs to be tackled as well as trade distortions in cotton.

 


BACK TO MAIN  |  ONLINE BOOKSTORE  |  HOW TO ORDER