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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May15/01)
6 May 2015
Third World Network

 
South against Doha "re-calibration", jettisoning "development"
Published in SUNS #8013 dated 30 April 2015
 
Geneva, 29 Apr (Kanaga Raja*) -- A large majority of developing countries appear to have disapproved of the "re-calibration" strategy in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations, being promoted by the WTO head, Roberto Azevedo, and the industrialised countries, that will change the existing goalposts of the talks, to the detriment of its "development goals".
 
This came out at the formal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting on Monday, in the speeches and statements of developing countries and their groupings, following status reports by Director-General Azevedo and the Chairs of the various negotiating bodies under the TNC.
 
The upbeat assessment of the WTO D-G on the state of play in the Doha talks (the text of his remarks and the call to members "to focus on the doable", and for all members to "leave their comfort zones... and contribute", posted on the WTO website), seemed to echo the stands of the United States and Europe for "re-calibration" of the DDA to conclude the Round by the Nairobi Ministerial Conference.
 
The D-G's assessment was also in sharp contrast to the rather sombre view of no progress in the agriculture talks that was given to the TNC Monday (previewed by his statement at the informal agriculture meeting last week, see SUNS #8011 dated 28 April 2015) by the Chair of the Agriculture Negotiations, Ambassador John Adank of New Zealand.
 
The D-G and Chairs of the negotiating groups are continuing their consultations on the task of defining a post-Bali work programme on the remaining DDA issues, and working to an end-July deadline for agreeing on the work programme, set by the General Council in November 2014.
 
The developing countries, both the various coordinators, and key individual countries who spoke at the TNC insisted on the talks continuing to adhere to the existing texts and mandates, and that agriculture and the development dimension must remain at the heart of the negotiations.
 
The developing countries insisted on the post-Bali work programme being firmly anchored in the previously agreed Doha mandates such as the 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration and Work Programme, the 2004 July Framework agreement at the General Council (after the collapse of the Cancun Ministerial), the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration and the 2008 draft revised modalities texts. Trying different approaches could not mean changing mandates, they insisted.
 
China, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Venezuela and Brazil, as well as the coordinators of the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) group, the African Group, the G-33 developing country grouping (of which Indonesia is the coordinator), the G-20 developing country agriculture group and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) insisted that the 2008 revised draft agriculture modalities text (Rev. 4), and the 2008 Rev. 3 draft revised modalities in non-agricultural market access (NAMA) must remain the basis for drawing-up the post-Bali work programme.
 
The various developed countries, the United States and the European Union in particular, issued a common message on the need to "re-calibrate" the level of ambition for accomplishing doable and realistic results by the end of this year.
 
These countries significantly made no mention of the previous Doha ministerial mandates as well as the Rev. 4 text on agriculture and Rev. 3 text on industrial goods. A few, such as the EU, suggested new approaches without elaborating on the underlying framework.
 
During his confessional meetings, the Director-General had asked the coordinator of G-33 coalition (Indonesia) as to why the group was demanding special safeguard mechanism and special products (in agriculture) when the level of ambition is sought to be lowered substantially by adopting a simple average and minimum cut tariff formula, according to a South American member of the G-33 group.
 
[While a simple average and minimum cut tariff formula have been proposed in informal meetings recently by Argentina, Paraguay and Norway, these in fact have not been accepted by most of the developing countries. SUNS]
 
In its comments at the TNC, China issued the strongest message at attempts to mislead members by raising the bogey of "re-calibration" while undermining the previous Doha mandates, while India said that attempts to impose "differentiation" to seek higher commitments from some developing countries in an attempt to make progress in the negotiations was not "acceptable."
 
In their interventions at the TNC, the developing countries underscored that the Rev. 4 draft agriculture text remains the basis for the negotiations and that agriculture holds the key that will enable members to make progress in the other areas.
 
The G-33, for example, wants the hard-won gains from the Rev. 4 text, especially Special Products (SP) and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), to be preserved. It also stressed on the importance of public stockholding for food security purposes.
 
Referring to the calls made by some major developed countries for a "re-calibration" of the level of ambition, a number of developing countries said that the negotiations must continue to adhere to the texts and the mandates emerging from Doha and right up to Bali.
 
The African Group, for example, said that any novel idea must be tested against those mandates, and the flexibilities for African countries must be preserved. The group underscored that the current consultations on the work programme are not a renegotiation of existing and agreed mandates.
 
The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group underlined that re-calibration must not entail undermining the development dimension of the Round and the special and differential treatment (S&D) and flexibilities of ACP Member States.
 
China said that re-calibration of the Rev. 4 and Rev. 3 texts must take into account the mandates coming from Doha, as well as that of 2004 (the July framework), Hong Kong and Bali. While it can look at alternatives, these mandates need to be respected, China stressed.
 
India said that progress can be made only if members seeking "re-calibration" spell it out in clear terms. This has not been done thus far, it added. Exploring different approaches is surely not tantamount to inverting the ministerial mandates and the principles that guide the negotiating process in this organisation, India further said (see below).
 
D-G STATEMENT AT TNC MEETING
 
Director-General Azevedo, speaking in his capacity as Chair of the TNC, draw three essential conclusions from the reports of the Chairs of the various negotiating bodies that were made early on in the meeting, and from his own consultations.
 
First, he said that a lot of good work has been done, particularly in the three core areas of Agriculture, Non- Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) and Services, and that it is clear that achieving outcomes in these areas will be essential to the success of these negotiations.
 
His second conclusion was that it remained very clear that development and LDC issues remain central, and that members must continue working to move these issues forward.
 
His third conclusion was that while it is clear that "we still have a long way to go, and that some areas are proving very problematic," there was no doubt in his mind that "we are making progress."
 
In this context, he referred to the great amount of engagement on the core DDA issues, and the high level of participation with Ambassadors getting involved.
 
As had been heard from the Chairs, members were still at odds on some major issues, and some big gaps remained. Some were still repeating their old positions, or taking more time to move to a solution-finding approach, he said, urging members not to be discouraged by it.
 
Referring to the horizontal discussion to identify inter-sectoral trade-offs, Azevedo said that there was need to put more focus on identifying the trade-offs within pillars and between them. These trade-offs were clearly not on the table yet, he said.
 
Noting that members were working to conclude a "clearly defined" work programme on the remaining DDA issues by July this year, the D-G said: "We are getting close to July now. And therefore we have to be realistic about just how specific and modalities-like it can be. That is a question which only you can answer."
 
Whatever the nature of the work programme members get by July, clearly it will have to fulfill certain criteria: First, it will have to be substantive and meaningful; second, it must give us guidance on how to conclude the negotiations; and third, it must be a springboard towards a successful 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December.
 
"We have to maintain our focus on what is doable. We have to be prepared to leave our comfort zones. And we will all have to contribute," said the D-G.
 
REPORTS BY THE CHAIRS OF THE NEGOTIATING BODIES
 
The D-G's statement was preceded by progress reports from the chairs of the various negotiating bodies under the TNC, including on agriculture, NAMA, services, trade and development, TRIPS, Rules Group, trade and environment, and the Special Session of the Dispute Settlement Body.
 
The Chair of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, Ambassador John Adank of New Zealand, said that members were a long way from where they should be, given the July deadline (for agreeing on the post-Bali work programme). Members were far from convergence on some threshold issues in key areas, and this is inhibiting progress in other areas, he added. (See SUNS #8011 dated 28 April 2015 for the full report by the Chair at an informal meeting of the Committee on 24 April and reactions from members.)
 
The Chair of the NAMA negotiating group, Ambassador Remigi Winzap of Switzerland, said that there has been constructive engagement by members, but it was difficult to move - as many members have said - without visible progress in agriculture. He also reported that there has not been much progress on non-tariff barriers (NTBs).
 
The Chair encouraged members to accelerate the exploratory phase to evaluate possible options, saying that this would enable members to move on NAMA. But what is clear is that this can happen only after members start to see some progress in agriculture, he said.
 
The Chair of the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services, Ambassador Gabriel Duque of Colombia, said that there had been an open discussion on aspirations of members, i. e. what exactly they would like to see from the services negotiations. The outcome would be a Chairman's summary which would be factual, non-binding, non-attributable and neutral.
 
Referring to a services meeting held last week, the Chair said that Members recognised the need for reality and doability. They understand that any outcome here will be calibrated based on what happens in agriculture and NAMA. Many delegates said that it was important to reduce "water" in commitments and that this should be a priority. Delegates highlighted the modes of supply that are important to them, with a number of countries reiterating the importance of Mode 4 (movement of natural persons).
 
On rules under the services pillar, the Chair reported that there were differing assessments made between domestic regulation and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). A number of delegations said that domestic regulation would form an important part of the outcome of the post-Bali work programme.
 
VIEWS OF MEMBERS
 
A number of delegations spoke following the report by Director-General Azevedo, outlining key issues of priority to them.
 
Lesotho (on behalf of the African Group) underscored two points. Firstly, substantial differences primarily among Members with greatest share of international trade remain, and this is certainly not a surprise in light of previous experiences.
 
Secondly, novel ideas on how to move the agenda forward have not been in short supply. Request-offer, offer- request, average cuts, simplified approach, mixture of request-offer and average cuts, cutting the water, new approaches to disciplining domestic support under agriculture, re-calibration of the level of ambition, matching of contributions, and such like concepts have emerged since members embarked on a process to develop the work programme as per the Bali Outcome.
 
"Nonetheless, in figuring out solutions to move our consultations forward, it is worth recalling the message that the Group has consistently conveyed to Members. On this occasion, allow me to once again underline that all the novel ideas on how to move the agenda forward, proposed negotiating approaches, the nature of the work program and the content therein and such like efforts to make a breakthrough, must all conform to the golden standards set by Doha Ministerial Declaration and attendant mandates. The DDA negotiations must pass the litmus test prescribed in these mandates," said Ambassador Nkopane Monyane of Lesotho, on behalf of the African Group.
 
According to the African Group, agriculture is an important pillar of the negotiations for African countries and an outcome in this area is of critical importance. In this context, it is hard to foresee the African Group supporting any approach running short of levelling the playing field and eliminating and/or significantly reducing trade-distorting subsidies. African countries' investments in agriculture have been sinking in a huge black hole, simply because these legitimate investments cannot compete with distorting subsidies derived from the current Agreement on Agriculture regime.
 
"From the perspective of the African Group, Members can no longer afford the luxury of turning a blind eye to the fact that the current architecture of the Agreement on Agriculture cannot be sustainable in the 21st century."
 
Referring to the task of developing a well-defined work programme, the African Group was of the strong view that:
 
* The work programme should be comprehensive and cover all remaining DDA issues as per the MC9 (Bali ministerial) mandate. It must also respect the existing mandates for the negotiations including negotiation principles enshrined therein. Drawing from our previous intervention, it is worth underscoring that the current consultations on the work programme are not a renegotiation of existing and agreed mandates.
 
* Development dimension must cut across every subject matter under negotiations in a way that proves it economically meaningful.
 
* Every novel idea must be tested against the existing mandates and no effort should be spared in ensuring that the process, approaches, the substance and principles of negotiations are adhered to, to the fullest extent.
 
* Lastly, the flexibilities of the African Countries, in all their categories, must be fully preserved. This is a golden standard against which every new idea should be subjected to.
 
Barbados (on behalf of the ACP Group) referred to its elements paper of March 2015 as a contribution to stimulate thinking on a modalities-type work programme from its perspective. The paper addresses the areas of importance to the Group in concluding the DDA, recognising that the work programme must be comprehensive and include all remaining DDA areas, it said.
 
With only three months left to complete the mandated clearly defined work programme, it is imperative that members move to specifics and begin to clearly detail not only the contours, but the specifics of the work programme, said Barbados.
 
According to the ACP, its Member States will also seek to do their part, bearing in mind that:
 
* Development must remain at the centre of discussions. In this regard, special and differential treatment must be integral part of the various pillars. However, these are integral elements, not negotiating points to be traded and measured against overall balance.
 
* Re-calibration must not entail undermining the development dimension of the Round and the special and differential treatment and flexibilities of ACP Member States. As such, re-calibration must not be synonymous with requesting greater contributions or more market access from ACP States.
 
* The mandate requires a clearly defined work programme on all the remaining DDA elements. As such we must intensify our efforts in all the areas, not only the three main elements of Agriculture, NAMA and Services, but Development, LDC issues and the other areas as well.
 
* We as a Membership must deliver a clearly defined work programme by 31 July 2015 as we have been mandated to do and have concrete, tangible deliverables ahead of the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi as we seek not only the development of the work programme, but the conclusion of the Doha Development Round.
 
Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Arab Group) stressed the importance of moving to a solution-based approach as quickly as possible.
 
On behalf of the Recently-Acceded Members (RAMs), Saudi Arabia said that there was need to focus on what is doable. In calibrating any of these negotiations, it needs to be appreciated that the RAMs have already made extensive commitments. There is no "water" left in their schedules.
 
Indonesia (on behalf of the G-33) stressed the importance of food security, livelihood security and rural development. There is need to address the inequities of the outcome of the Uruguay Round. Some members have been questioning the mandate and legitimacy of the G-33 proposals which would cover hundreds of millions of small farmers.
 
The G-33 wants to preserve the hard-won gains from the Rev. 4 draft agriculture modalities text, and this means, for example, special products (SP) and the special safeguard mechanism (SSM). It also stressed the importance of public stockholding for food security purposes.
 
Brazil (on behalf of the G-20) said that agriculture has lagged behind for many years. It is high time that we move to correct these imbalances. Agriculture will set the level of ambition. There must be balance across the three pillars - market access, domestic support and export competition - and progress must be made in all areas, it said.
 
According to the G-20, the Rev. 4 text remains the basis for negotiations. Agriculture holds the key that will enable members to make progress elsewhere. It also stressed on special and differential treatment (S&D) as being key. There is need to move into a more solution-oriented approach. There is a floor of ambition beyond which the point of this exercise stops making sense, it said.
 
Switzerland (on behalf of the G-10) said that the group attaches the highest importance to the multilateral trading system and is strongly committed to completing the DDA negotiations. At the moment, it seems clear that the disagreement over domestic support is holding back progress in other areas.
 
With respect to market access in agriculture, the G-10 has defensive interests and this is where the G-10 countries are most exposed. But they are prepared to engage in different tariff cutting approaches if their sensitivities are respected. They remain strongly opposed to tariff capping, and they would like to see the issue of export restrictions being taken up.
 
On behalf of itself, Switzerland said that the situation with respect to moving on the three pillars of agriculture is being affected by the fact that there is very little movement on NAMA and services. Across the board, it seems that members are having more defensive than offensive interests. This makes negotiating very difficult. Any solution must respect S&D.
 
It also said that a no outcome at the Nairobi ministerial conference will most probably kill the round. The post-Bali work programme is not an objective in itself but a step to concluding the DDA. The DDA must be comprehensive but also be doable. The post-Bali work programme needs to respect the sensitivities of all members but it must also be a springboard for MC10 (Nairobi ministerial) and the eventual conclusion of the round.
 
Mali (on behalf of the Cotton-4 countries) said that the group does not envisage concluding any agreement that does not involve cotton.
 
Nepal said that MC10 and the fate of the Doha Development Agenda are contingent on a successful outcome for the post-Bali work programme. The LDCs want an outcome that can address their interests, specifically putting the development dimension and S&D at the heart of the negotiations.
 
Venezuela said that the development dimension should be at the heart of the negotiations, with agriculture at the centre. There is need to deliver on agriculture, cotton, S&D, and less than full reciprocity in the tariff-cutting negotiations. Unfortunately, we are seeing market access becoming the key issue in these negotiations and this only benefits certain members, it said.
 
Some industrial countries are trying to alter S&D to suit their interests, it said, adding that these principles instead need to cater to the legitimate interests of the developing countries.
 
Turkey said that it would like to see a doable outcome for the post-Bali work programme. The imbalances from the Uruguay Round need to be addressed. Re-calibrating would not mean revisiting the mandate of the DDA. We cannot start from scratch. We need balance across the pillars. SP and SSM should be at the heart of any outcome. The developing countries that do not have AMS commitments should be exempt from any cuts in their de minimis or OTDS reductions.
 
The European Union said that members talked about the need for parallelism, simplification and doability early on in the work programme process, and "we had what seemed to be a common understanding that those Members making far-reaching requests on sensitive issues, need to put forward commensurate concessions of their own. While we are seeing ambitious requests being made, the ensuing readiness to contribute with commensurate concessions still seems to be missing."
 
In the same vein, it has been clear for a long time that similar and calibrated levels of ambition need to be pursued in the individual pillars of negotiations. In this regard, the question of balance must continue to be at the centre of attention. Attempting to put together a deal in which high ambition is pursued in certain areas in order to compensate for the fact that nothing or very little is done in others is not a recipe for success; quite the contrary, it said.
 
"Similarly, trying to put certain areas before others and promoting sequencing ideas will not help us succeed. While it is clear that agriculture is on everyone's mind and without it there can be no deal, it is equally true that no deal will be possible without the other areas."
 
The EU further said: "As difficult as it is, we need to engage on all issues and allow them to advance technically while keeping at the back of our minds that ambition will have to be adjusted and calibrated across all pillars in order to arrive at a final acceptable balance. There should be no misunderstanding on this point: all issues, core and non-core, need to form part of the work-programme and part of the final deal. Anything less will simply not work."
 
While the EU is firmly opposed to any notion of sequencing in the limited time before members, it fully understands that many Members want to advance on agriculture. In this context, it welcomed, for example, the degree of convergence that is appearing on export competition and the need for a balanced outcome across the entire pillar.
 
"The discussion so far has however rightly focused on domestic support, where we have also been clear about our interest and readiness to have an ambitious outcome. This cannot mean however that while some Members would dramatically cut their trade distorting domestic support, others would be allowed to increase their spending to levels never before seen. Trade distorting domestic support is a common concern and everyone needs to contribute to addressing it."
 
It noted that creative ideas have been put on the table, which merit further exploration and eventually more will be needed. "Nevertheless, the debates of recent weeks have clearly shown that the best we could collectively hope for in this round would be an outcome which respects current policies, whilst seeking to limit excessive increases in the use of trade distorting measures. This, together with further flexibilities that will be needed in order to address the public stockholding issue, will have an impact on all other areas of negotiations."
 
According to the EU, crucially, the approach on agricultural market access will have to mirror the overall direction that is being taken on domestic support. Progress in this area will only be possible on the basis of a simplified approach, which while setting a clear benchmark in terms of tariff reductions, will give Members the necessary flexibility in deciding which tariff lines to cut.
 
Such an approach would ensure an appropriate level of ambition without however necessitating the introduction of complicating factors, which would be disproportionate to the overall approach being taken, it said.
 
The approach on agricultural market access will of course have a knock-on effect on NAMA, where averaging would again seem the most promising way of proceeding. It would give a meaningful result while providing Members with flexibility in terms of implementation.
 
It is the EU's firm belief that, now more than ever, "we all need to focus on the realistic and the doable. We need to be clear in our minds whether we would prefer to get in the near future a deal and to close the DDA with the doable and meaningful results which are within our reach or hold out for something bigger which may however never materialise."
 
According to trade officials, Uruguay reiterated that it cannot accept a zero outcome in agriculture.
 
Japan said that on the positive side, it welcomes the increased number of ideas and proposals that are being put forward that are based upon necessary re-calibration. On the worrisome side, there remain differences between major members who are sticking to concepts that would not move us forward.
 
The United States said that the effort for re-calibration that reality dictates, and which most Members acknowledge as necessary, is proving every bit as challenging as other modes and mechanisms members have tried in the past.
 
"Nonetheless, re-calibration has been happening. Like others, the United States is deeply disappointed that its original aspirations for the Round have not been realized. We have consistently believed that we had a real opportunity, from 2001 forward, to bring about significant, new liberalization that would advance the economic development prospects of all Members, particularly developing Members. That opportunity, if not completely evaporated, has certainly been extensively eroded."
 
"We know that our insistence that all major agricultural subsidisers participate in taking on new disciplines for trade-distorting support is difficult for certain other Members. We know, as well, that some other Members do not want to hear that it cannot be acceptable for only some Members to contribute cuts in applied tariffs while others contribute only policy space. We know that many Members are deeply attached to the texts known as Rev. 3 and Rev. 4. We find this misguided, since those texts never found consensus. And indeed, the very reasons that prevented consensus in 2008 have grown more profound in the seven years since, namely the changed role of emerging economies."
 
Referring to the frequent references to the mandate that it has heard, the US said that if finding a solution were as simple as adhering to the mandate, "we would have done so a decade ago. The truth is that the mandate is ambiguous, and we have never agreed on what it means. We certainly have not agreed how to operationalize the mandate as an actual trade agreement."
 
It added that some of those who cite the mandate most seem always to skip over the parts they don't like, including the guidance from 2011's MC8, when all of our Ministers directed us to "explore different negotiating approaches."
 
"So, we are all finding that re-calibration may not be as easy as we would have liked, in that it doesn't do away with a constellation of conflicting political and policy difficulties that are simply extremely hard to reconcile... We cannot bury our head in the sand and wish reality away, and in April 2015, our choice is clear: either we adapt our collective expectations significantly and quickly, or the WTO must begin to confront the prospect of a definitive failure," said the US.
 
Argentina endorsed the G-20 statement. It said that it is not prepared to discuss export restrictions, particularly when there are so many other distortions in agriculture.
 
Uganda endorsed the G-33, ACP and African Group statements. While its true that the Rev. 4 and Rev. 3 texts have not been agreed, the new ideas put forward have not been agreed either. There is a mandate that has been set, based on agreement by ministers in Doha, as well as in 2004 (July framework), in Hong Kong (in 2005) and in Bali (in 2013). There is need for balance across agriculture, NAMA and services, with the single undertaking and the development dimension being preserved, it said.
 
Korea said that it is discouraged by the speed and quality of progress made so far. It does not know what the post-Bali work programme is going to look like let alone what the substance will be. The deadlock on domestic support is hampering progress in other issues in agriculture as well as in NAMA and services. The 31 July deadline (for agreeing on the post-Bali work programme) is crucially important. Those who call for re-calibration or simplification need to put forward proposals that are more specific so that there can be engagement on these questions, it said.
 
China said that re-calibration of the Rev. 4 and Rev. 3 texts must take into account the mandates coming from Doha, as well as that of 2004 (July framework), Hong Kong and Bali. It can look at alternatives but these mandates need to be respected. It cannot see how a success can arise when some members are seeking more flexibilities and requiring less flexibility of others, or even greater commitments from others.
 
On the question of domestic support, for example, China asked are we talking about a collective or selective re-calibration. If it is a selective approach, this will not lead to consensus. When you talk about re-calibration, you need to talk about how much, where this would take place and for whom.
 
On the question of RAMs, it said that there is no more "water" to be given. The RAMs have already made their contribution to the outcome of the DDA, by virtue of the commitments made on their accession.
 
China further said that it will be very hard to have a successful outcome without services and rules in a final package. The Doha Round is a very complex negotiation, more complex than any other round, and so it bears keeping in mind the difficulties that many members have had, and that it would not be realistic to expect one, two, three or four members to make contributions to save the round while the others do nothing.
 
Paraguay said that there is need to address OTDS, and amber box as well as de minimis will need to be looked at as well. On SSM, it said that this is something that should only be used selectively and there should be a sunset clause. On public stockholding for food security purposes, it said that the Bali decision must be respected in its entirety, and adequate transparency and safeguards must be ensured.
 
Norway said that there is need to keep the development dimension at the centre, and that agriculture will determine the level of ambition. It is increasingly concerned about progress in other areas apart from agriculture. While it is defensive on agriculture, it is engaging in the negotiations. We will all have to revise our positions and adjust them to take into account the current realities, it said.
 
Colombia said that there is need to study alternatives and to see more new proposals. The post-Bali work programme is not the end of the line but is just something that would help us get to the conclusion of the DDA. It stressed the importance of balance across the three pillars in agriculture.
 
Pakistan said that there needs to be balance across the three pillars. There is need to look at public stockholding for food security purposes and the unintended consequences of these programmes. In NAMA, not only tariffs but NTBs must also be addressed. This is crucially important for developing countries as NTBs are increasingly being used as barriers to market access.
 
India (represented by Ambassador Anjali Prasad) associated itself with the statements made by Brazil on behalf of the G-20 and Indonesia on behalf of the G-33. It is evident that this renewed phase of engagement has not yielded concrete progress, and the contours of the post Bali-Work Programme still remain elusive, it said.
 
First and foremost, India said, we need to clear the strategic fog over the so-called "re-calibration" in the ambition levels. In its view, progress can be made only if members seeking "re-calibration" could spell it out in clear terms. This has not been done thus far. Further, "re-calibration" has to be vis-a-vis something. What is that benchmark? Do we have a common understanding in this regard?
 
"Another related question is whether we can ignore the work that has already been undertaken by members collectively since the Round was launched," India asked, referring to the Ministerial mandates and the 2008 texts.
 
"The existing texts have a sort of inherent balance and connectivity of issues. If that is disturbed in the name of "re-calibration", do we start with a clean slate? If not, how will the elements of a package be identified without the possibility of cherry picking?"
 
India believes that the 2008 texts should be the basis for future work along with the Hong Kong Ministerial Decisions. Exploring different approaches (a reference to the US remarks about the 2011 MC8) is surely not tantamount to inverting the ministerial mandates and the principles that guide the negotiating process in this organization.
 
Recalling that the Doha Round is a "development round", India said that it is therefore crucial that in the search for the right level of ambition in agriculture and other areas under negotiation, "we do not lose sight of the centrality of rebalancing inequities" and of the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries. Any discussion on "doability", "re-calibration" or "simplification" should not result in the dilution of the "development quotient" of this Round, as enshrined in the ministerial decisions since the Doha Declaration."
 
Linked to this is the issue of higher contributions by some developing countries. The attempt appears to be to make progress in the Round conditional upon the contributions by these members, which are still developing countries and grappling with the challenges of large scale poverty, underdevelopment and inadequate access to the basic necessities of life.
 
"Differentiation among developing countries in this manner, is unacceptable" India said, adding that such arguments and conditionalities undermine the very basis of the negotiating function of the WTO which is premised on certain accepted principles, which do not allow for such differentiation.
 
"Any such attempt therefore is bound to delay our movement towards a work programme and eventually the conclusion of the Round. Contributions have to be benchmarked to levels of development rather than some vague sense of the world having changed."
 
India said it would like an early conclusion of the Round but not at any cost and in any manner whatsoever. The conclusion must deliver a meaningful development outcome. It appeared to India that an atmosphere is sought to be created that if most of what the "re-calibrators" want, is not agreed to, the Round would be dead. December 2015 is being talked about as a defacto deadline.
 
"We believe that this is a hasty characterization by those who, are perhaps, uncomfortable with the development dimension involving correction of the inequities in the international trading system, of which they are currently the beneficiaries," it said, pointing out that there is still time till MC-10.
 
"Rather than delving in doomsday scenarios, it would be helpful if we could engage constructively and positively in addressing the issues most crucial to a successful conclusion of the Round."
 
According to India, agriculture remains central to any outcome in this Round. "It has been our consistent position along with several other developing members that the level of ambition in this Round would be determined by agriculture. While we remain engaged and are willing to redouble our efforts to discuss all areas in an exploratory and "without prejudice" basis, meaningful engagement in other areas would have to await clarity on possible outcomes in agriculture."
 
India believes that Rev. 4 provides a good basis for the work in agriculture, and that SP, SSM and a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes must be part of an outcome in MC-10. India also has a deep interest in NAMA and services but active engagement in these areas would depend on the meaning of re-calibration and how it would impact the core pillar of agriculture.
 
India believes that members have a unique opportunity and indeed an obligation to level the playing field in this Round so that trade does in fact deliver on development and poverty alleviation.
 
"We need to strive for balanced outcomes keeping in mind the existing mandate and progress already achieved in the negotiations, so far," it said.
 
(* With inputs from D. Ravi Kanth.) +

 


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