TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul15/09)
14 July 2015
Third World Network
Post-Bali work programme not doable by end-July, says DG Azevedo
Published in SUNS #8060 dated 10 July 2015
Geneva, 9 Jul (D. Ravi Kanth) -- Several developing countries on Wednesday
(July 8) expressed their frustration with the World Trade Organization
(WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo's announcement that the work
program with precise modalities for concluding the Doha Development
Round (DDR) trade negotiations will not be delivered by end-July.
Many developing countries said that the new criteria based on "doability,"
"re-calibration," "simplification," "alternative
approaches," and "alternative paths" were responsible
for creating confusion and chaos in finalizing the work program.
The criteria were proposed by the DG and developed countries for concluding
the DDR negotiations over the last seven months, particularly after
the DG's meeting with the European Union trade commissioner Cecilia
Malmstrom in December last year.
At an informal heads of delegations (HOD) meeting on 8 July, Azevedo
issued a downbeat message that it is not possible to finalize the
post-Bali work program by end-July, as agreed by members at a General
Council meeting last year.
Azevedo had repeatedly maintained over the past seven months that
the work program with precise modalities is essential for concluding
the DDR negotiations at the WTO's tenth ministerial conference in
Nairobi, Kenya, beginning on December 15, 2015.
The DG said his consultations with members in different configurations
have failed to bring about convergence on the so-called landing zones.
However, he did not elaborate on the landing zones, an issue on which
many developing countries expressed dismay because of the attempts
to change the landing zones without correspondence with the previous
In the statement to the HOD, put out on the WTO website, the DG said
"considering everything I have heard from members over the last
three weeks, I see very little prospect of delivering a detailed and
substantive work programme by the end of July."
Azevedo shifted the responsibility for finalizing the work program
onto members. "Whether we can deliver a work programme is in
the hands of the members and their ability to bring forward new proposals
in the coming days which will pave the way to find consensus,"
It is not clear what he meant by new proposals that members ought
to bring for paving the way to find consensus. Is the DG expecting
new proposals not based on the existing Doha mandates, asked a developing
country trade envoy.
The DG's overall stance about the failure to comply with the end-July
deadline provoked an angry response from several African countries.
Lesotho, on behalf of African Group, asked the DG why is it that the
failure to finalize the work program is being treated in such cavalier
fashion unlike the adoption of the Trade Facilitation protocol last
When members failed to adopt the TF protocol last year, the DG had
said that the credibility of the WTO is at stake and it would have
far reaching implications, Lesotho pointed out.
But when it comes to the failure for delivering the work program which
is so critical for concluding the DDR negotiations, there is a "casual"
approach being adopted, Lesotho said.
On behalf of the G-33 farm coalition, Indonesia delivered a strong
message that the development dimension of the Doha Round must be at
the center of the work program, as and when it is finalized. The livelihood,
rural development, and food security concerns of the developing countries
must guide the final outcome in which flexibilities for special products
and policy space for special safeguard mechanism (SSM) remain as the
scaffolding of the final agreement, Indonesia declared.
India delivered the strongest criticism yet on what happened over
the past seven months when some members attempted to change the goal
posts. "At the cost of repetition Chair, we must say that a handful
of Members that have been espousing the need for ‘re-calibration'
or ‘simplification' seem desirous of moving the discussions away not
only from the 2008 texts but also perhaps from all previous mandates,"
"At the same time they have been hesitant to directly come forward
with credible and wholesome alternatives," India's Ambassador
Anjali Prasad argued.
Until now, the proponents of re-calibration failed to "translate
the rhetoric of re-calibration into actionable proposals on which
it is possible to engage meaningfully," she maintained.
More disturbingly, the proponents of ‘re-calibration' are redefining
"their terms of engagement on the pre-condition that a couple
of developing country Members agree to undertake higher contributions
vis-a-vis the rest. Such conditionalities are unprecedented as a gateway,"
Ambassador Prasad said.
India also pointed a finger at the lack of transparency when chairs
are submitting reports or papers without indicating the proponents
of those reports. "There cannot be any short-cuts to a member-driven,
bottom-up approach," India argued.
India also said that "alternatives suggested in the Chair's papers
and those tabled so far by Members themselves have not found convergence."
India questioned the re-calibration or simplification criteria, pointing
out that it is not supposed to "result in the rewriting of mandates
contained in the Doha declaration and elucidated further in the July
Framework and Hong Kong Declaration."
According to India, there is a concerted attempt to view "Special
and Differential treatment - a core principle of the GATT and the
WTO and informing all pillars of the negotiations, as is being viewed
by some, as a ‘threshold' issue now."
Also, there is a demand for bigger contributions in some areas from
developing countries while the depth of obligations of developed country
Members is sought to be reduced, India maintained. "To give an
example, while some of the building blocks of Rev. 4 are either being
consistently and substantially diluted or dropped selectively on the
ground that they are not do-able, the linkage with the Swiss formula
for determination of tariff reduction targets in NAMA is being maintained
almost with a missionary zeal," India maintained.
"This approach denotes a complete asymmetry in the rebalancing
of the level of ambition in these two critical areas," India
maintained. "Any negotiation," said India, "involves
"But if the compromises envisaged are blatantly asymmetrical
to be almost devoid of logic, the process, fragile as it is, could
suffer a breakdown," India warned.
In a sharp critique of the process over the past seven months, Uganda's
Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr asked some searing questions
to the Director-General. He asked whether members cast their minds
on the remaining DDA issues after the Trade Facilitation agreement?
"We called for a discussion on the nature and scope of the work
program, but apparently the call has not yet found a landing zone,"
Ambassador Aparr said. "Mr. Chairman, the question is, what is
so wrong with the Doha Work Program?" asked Uganda.
"Given the time constraints, we would favour an approach that
focuses on the end game," Uganda maintained. "Instead of
wasting any more precious time, we should focus on achieving concrete
deliverables for Nairobi," Uganda argued. "We do not want
to be like some leaders in 1814, who were accused to have learnt nothing
and forgotten nothing," it argued.
Ambassador Aparr told the DG that members need to "deal with
all aspects of issues now."
"Is it an Agreement-plus, like the case was in Bali; or a framework;
a declaration; a decision; or a Chairman's Statement?" Uganda
sought to know.
Ambassador Aparr suggested that "the Chairs should not become
proponents, or surrogate demandeurs. Some may be sympathetic to follow
a certain line of thinking. Modalities for work should be the same
for all members. For instance, the approach adopted in the CTD should
not be different from that being used in NAMA."
Uganda expressed its opposition to "re-calibration, doability
and realism", saying "they are words that only mean one
thing: Resistance to undertaking (subsidy) cuts by developed countries."
"We would reject approaches that places us in a position as taking
part in a ‘collective' decision to deny ourselves the much needed
reform, which is akin to swallowing a poison pill. History will be
harsh in judgement of our generation!" Ambassador Aparr maintained.
Uganda called for undertaking "tough reduction commitments on
trade distorting domestic supports; grant of DFQF in line with the
Hong Kong Ministerial declaration; and reform the Rules of Origin
to make them simple, transparent and objective in line with the Hong
Barbados, on behalf of the ACP group, told the WTO chief that it is
essential to have a work program without which members would not know
the road to Nairobi.
Turkey said it is not in favour of the re-calibration approach as
it does not have any basis. If there is a basis for concluding the
Doha negotiations it is only the 2008 revised draft modalities, Turkey
Several countries disagreed with the DG's assessment that a work program
cannot be produced by the end of the month, saying that there is still
time for more consultations.
Faced with stinging criticism from several quarters, Azevedo said
he would hold more consultations to see if he could come up with a
program by the end of the month.
In short, the DG's approach based on "do-ability" criteria
for concluding the DDA negotiations, stands exposed as an attempt
to salvage the major developed countries, particularly the United
States, several trade envoys told the SUNS. +