Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jun15/07)
9 June 2015
Third World Network
Azevedo issues sanitized version of "consultation" meetings
Published in SUNS #8034 dated 4 June 2015
Geneva, 3 Jun (D. Ravi Kanth) -- The Director-General of the World
Trade Organization (WTO), Mr. Roberto Azevedo, has issued to members
what appears to be a sanitized version of his meetings and issues
discussed with trade envoys in different configurations over the last
A glimpse of the closed-door consultations between the director-general
and select trade envoys in various configurations were reported by
different publications, including the SUNS.
The consultations were aimed at drawing-up the post-Bali work program
by end-July which would serve as the basis for concluding the Doha
Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations by the end of this year. The
DDA negotiations were launched largely at the insistence of the European
Union and the United States.
"Your reports have forced the DG to come clean on all his meetings
about which members hitherto have remained clueless," a European
trade envoy told SUNS on Tuesday (June 2) after attending the India
trade policy review meeting.
The media was promised that the transcript of the DG's speech delivered
on Monday (June 1) at an informal heads of delegations (HOD) meeting
will be made available on the WTO's website on the following day.
But, for inexplicable reasons, that statement was not made available
until today (June 3). At the time of writing, the WTO website only
had as a ‘news item' (posted on 1 June), an 8-para, 364-word report
of Mr. Azevedo's remarks as TNC chair at the informal HOD meeting
on 1 June.
Several trade envoys said (after the HOD meet) that the DG had spent
considerable time in his statement haranguing members about "media"
reports on his consultatons with select trade envoys, dubbing them
as "inaccurate" and "biased." He did not name
the publications which had carried these reports over the last four
"Azevedo embarrassed himself by preaching us on how to behave
with reporters and treating us like school children," said an
African trade envoy.
Nevertheless, the DG issued a truncated version of his marathon statement
delivered at the HOD meeting to members on Tuesday (June 2) in which
he provided information of the consultations he has had since May
7, said trade envoys familiar with the statement.
At the HOD meeting on Monday (June 1), Azevedo had emphasized the
special safeguard mechanism (SSM) as an issue on which there is no
agreement, according to trade envoys present at the meeting.
However, the G-33 coalition led by Indonesia along with other developing
country groups like the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) and Africa
Group spoke up to insist that the SSM is at the core of the Doha Development
Agenda (DDA) negotiations.
The United States threatened that the WTO's tenth ministerial conference
which will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, in December is a "make
or break" event for the Doha trade negotiations. The US said
members can only get an outcome on issues where there is consensus,
implying that where there is no consensus the issues should not be
pursued, said trade envoys after attending the HOD meeting.
Several developing country members - Brazil, India, the G-33 farm
coalition, the ACP group - severely questioned the "re-calibration"
Brazil said agriculture remains at the centre of the final outcomes.
Brasilia said re-calibration cannot result in an outcome that is meaningless.
Further, all issues must be decided in a balanced manner, Brazil said,
while cautioning that it will not accept a Bali-type of best endeavour
outcome in agriculture. Mexico said it can re-calibrate on what is
doable but members need a stronger outcome in agriculture and other
On behalf of the G-33 farm coalition, Indonesia said the 2008 revised
draft modalities and the proposals it had presented last year must
remain as the basis for further work. Indonesia said the simplification
and re-calibration approach are misleading as they lay emphasis on
lowering the level of ambition with no additional flexibilities.
The G-33 coalition cautioned that the re-calibration approach doesn't
mean members have to re-calibrate their own proposals. Indonesia said
SSM must form an integral part of the post-Bali work program as any
attempt to lower the level of ambition in market access and domestic
subsidies increases the need for a strong SSM for developing countries.
The G-33 said the permanent solution on public stockholding programs
is an imperative of the development round.
India questioned the underlying rationale of the "make-it-or-break
it" narrative advanced by the United States, saying re-calibration
with a lowering of ambition must be "symmetrical" across
all areas of the negotiation. India said the Round cannot be concluded
without a credible outcome on the development dimension.
In his concluding remarks, Azevedo said agriculture is central to
the Round. Despite differences in the domestic support pillar, we
need "a step forward" in addressing trade-distorting domestic
subsidies. The tariff cuts in market access must be modest, the director-general
said, arguing that we need some ministerial meetings, according to
trade envoys present at the meeting.
On Tuesday (June 2), the DG issued his truncated report that speaks
of two sets of consultations he attended over the last 30 days. While
the DG convened green room meetings in which over two dozen trade
envoys took part, Azevedo said he took part in consultations to which
he was "invited" such as the meetings with the seven major
developed and developing countries (the United States, the European
Union, China, India, Brazil, Australia, and Japan).
The report did not indicate who had convened the meetings with the
seven major developed and developing countries, and who had invited
Azevedo to participate.
The DG's report said the chair for the General Council Ambassador
Fernando De Mateo of Mexico, the chair for the Doha agriculture negotiations
Ambassador John Adank of New Zealand, and the chair for Doha industrial
goods negotiations Ambassador Remigi Winzap of Switzerland had taken
part in the G-7 meetings.
The green room meetings, the report said, were specifically focused
on Doha "rules"; "services" ("market access";
"domestic regulation"; and "GATS rules"); "Special
Safeguard Mechanism"; and "LDC issues."
The DG's meetings with the seven countries were focused on "domestic
support [in agriculture]", "export competition", "market
access in agriculture and NAMA", the report added.
But the DG's report, said one trade envoy, failed to give an "accurate"
and "unbiased" picture of what exactly transpired during
the consultations. Azevedo's report, for example, left things unsaid
about certain parts of the consultations on issues in the domestic
support and export competition pillars where one or two developed
country members made exceptional demands for removing the special
and differential treatment flexibilities for developing countries.
The United States, in one of the meetings, had called for discontinuing
Article 6.2 of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), that provides policy
space for developing countries through special and differential treatment
flexibility, on the ground that some countries do not have to undertake
The DG's report merely said on the domestic support: "Although
participants agreed on the desirability of significant results in
domestic support, there was no solution in sight to bridge the very
fundamental differences among some delegations. That was particularly
the case for the discussions on OTDS, where opposing positions were
quite evident. Participants discussed whether all members (with the
exception of LDCs and NFIDCs under certain conditions) should have
a binding OTDS limit. In that case, what compensatory adjustments,
if any, could potentially be explored, particularly for members who
do not have AMS entitlements or access to Article 6.2 flexibilities?
No signs of convergence were seen in that discussion. Indeed, positions
were very much entrenched."
Clearly, it would be beneficial for members who are not present at
the meeting to know exactly how the discussion proceeded and whether
the DG made any effort to clarify what the existing provisions are
and how they apply regardless of the demands made at the meeting.
Azevedo as the past trade envoy and negotiator of Brazil and now as
the DG of the 161-member organization ought to have clarified where
the rules stand and whether it is proper to make such demands, trade
The European Union had suggested making Art. 9.4 of the AoA inoperative.
This allows developing countries to provide export subsidies while
the EU will have to eliminate its export subsidies. The DG's report
merely said "views on the date of elimination and phasing-out
timetable were not conclusive" on export subsidies.
On export credits and food aid, the DG's report, for example, attempts
to hide the differences when only one member i. e. the United States
is uncomfortable with the provisions in the revised draft modalities
Azevedo said "there was a view that the rev. 4 provisions had
to be adjusted" but he remained silent on why they need to be
adjusted and who is asking for adjustment when other members are ready
to accept the provisions.
On food aid, which was one of the most divisive issues at the 2005
Hong Kong Ministerial Conference between the United States and the
European Union, Azevedo said "a view was also expressed which
sees very little room for outcome in Food Aid disciplines." It
is an open secret that the US is not ready to accept the provisions
on monetization of "in-kind" food aid currently in Rev.
As regards the special safeguard mechanism, the DG's report is full
of inaccurate details, said an African trade envoy.
Azevedo said: "This issue has historically been quite contentious.
There are many unresolved issues on this topic, but the key point
at this moment is whether an outcome on SSM should be linked to outcomes
in the area of agriculture market access, or if the SSM is a stand-alone
issue that should be negotiated separately. The meeting demonstrated
that Members remain starkly divided on this point. The proponents
consider that outcomes here should be distinct from market access
outcomes, and that it is an essential element in any Doha outcome.
They maintain that an SSM should not have any a priori product limitations
and should not be linked to tariff reductions.
"Some Members have noted that the mandate for the SSM included
in the Hong Kong Ministerial does not establish a link between market
access outcomes and developing country Members' right to an SSM. Others
do not agree that this can be treated as a stand-alone issue, noting
that it was included as part of Doha discussions precisely because
developing country Members were being asked to liberalize. They also
noted that 100% eligibility of products for the SSM was not consistent
with the argument that the SSM was needed to protect small and vulnerable
farmers in very specific situations.
"Despite these differing views, some ideas have been put forward
regarding options in this area. Some Members suggest that a practical
way forward would be to consider whether elements of the existing
SSG provisions, with appropriate modifications, could assist in elaborating
an SSM, also noting that the SSG was designed to be temporary and
should be eliminated. Other Members would prefer revisiting elements
described in the 2008 modalities to address concerns. Many have stressed
that transparency and predictability would be important elements for
"Overall developed countries and developing country exporters
expressed an openness to discuss outcomes in this area proportionate
to the current negotiating environment. However, there was also a
view that consensus would only be possible if outcomes on safeguards
were linked to market access outcomes and that, given the current
context, the concept of an SSM could not be supported. These sharp
divergences pose important challenges for the work ahead."
During the actual discussion (in the Green Room on SSM), there was
only one member which raised the linkage of SSM with market access
and not as a standalone issue. That member also said the SSM will
not fly while the majority of members present at the meeting said
the SSM is a vital component of the Development agenda. When the DG
concluded the meeting on SSM, he said there are differences among
members on the issue. But a trade envoy told Azevedo that it was not
correct to say "there are differences among members when only
one member remains opposed to SSM."
The LDC trade envoys also questioned the DG's report on the discussion
held on their issues on May 29. "The DG kept telling me that
I'm repeating my positions to which I said my issues were never addressed
till now and I will continue to raise them."
In short, no one knows exactly what happened in those consultations
barring those who were present at the meeting. And even for those
members who were present at the meeting, the DG's report fell short
of giving an unbiased account of the actual flow of to-and-fro discussions
and the intransigent positions held by one or two members.
All these problems would not have arisen if Azevedo followed a "bottom-up
and transparent" process all these months. Clearly, saying one
thing to one member and something different to another will invariably
lead to crisis of confidence as demonstrated during the recent consultations
by Azevedo, trade envoys said.
It is always useful to show a mirror to those who are at the helm
for ensuring that they become transparent. That is what the MEDIA
reports did, commented several trade envoys! +