TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Sept15/07)
22 September 2015
Third World Network

South demands credible, developmental outcomes at Nairobi
Published in SUNS #8096 dated 21 September 2015

Geneva, 18 Sep (D. Ravi Kanth) -- In what seemed to be a strong rebuff to WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo and the United States, a large majority of developing and least-developed countries on Thursday (September 17) rejected ideas floated by them for cobbling a small package of deliverables for the tenth ministerial conference in Nairobi, Kenya, on December 15, several trade envoys told the SUNS.

At an urgently convened meeting of heads of delegations (HoD) to discuss possible deliverables for MC10, trade envoys of the developing and least-developed countries demanded "credible" and "developmental" outcomes based on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA).

In nuanced interventions, developing countries such as China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia on behalf of the G-33 farm group, Venezuela, Pakistan, Lesotho on behalf of the African group, Uganda, Rwanda, and Cuba among others said they will not accept the proposal from the US for voluntary contributions by all to reduce domestic farm subsidies nor allow efforts to weaken special and differential treatment.

The developing and the poorest countries said categorically that regardless of the outcomes in Nairobi, the DDA negotiations shall continue until there is resolution of all unresolved issues.

They expressed concern over attempts by the major developed countries, particularly the US, to bury the DDA negotiations at Nairobi without addressing the developmental goals, laid out in the ministerial decisions since the launch of the negotiations in 2001 at Doha, Qatar.

In the face of such unprecedented unanimity among the developing countries and the LDCs to ensure that there are credible outcomes at Nairobi and that the DDA negotiations are not declared dead at Nairobi, Azevedo concluded the meeting without indicating the way forward. The DG merely said the picture is clear, according to a trade envoy present at the meeting.

"This is one of the rare meetings in which some developing countries who have remained on the sidelines came out in full blast against the ongoing efforts to close the round with a small package," the envoy said.

Azevedo commenced the meeting with his introductory remarks that there is a turnaround from the first semester (January-July) in exploring possible outcomes for the Nairobi meeting.

"The view emerging from many of the [recent] meetings in which I have participated is that a set of deliverables is within reach, (and) has the potential to make the [tenth] ministerial [meeting] a success and help us move our work forward," the DG said. "And crucially there is the common view that those deliverables should have development and LDC issues at their heart," Azevedo emphasized.

"Once we have a clear picture of what the Nairobi outcomes might look like, then we can work hard to deliver them," Azevedo maintained, instead of suggesting or identifying the issues that need to be resolved at Nairobi based on the ministerial declaration at MC9 in Bali, Indonesia.

The Bali ministerial declaration clearly stipulated accords for binding the so-called best endeavour decisions concerning the specific issues of the LDCs, and for resolving the remaining issues of the DDA in agriculture, market access for industrial goods, services, rules, and development by the tenth ministerial conference.

Although the post-Bali agenda was to be finalized by end-July this year, it was successfully scuttled by a major developed country (the United States) on one pretext or the other because of its farm bill that was enacted last year.

That farm bill of the US includes subsidy programs and outlays well beyond what was envisaged in the 2008 revised agriculture draft modalities. The US was clearly not in a position to fulfill the US$14.5 billion limit set out in the revised draft modalities because of its latest farm law.

To cover up this ugly reality, the US disingenuously brought forward one obstacle after another to ensure that there was no post-Bali work program, according to several developing country trade envoys.

Instead of naming and shaming the country that is responsible for wreaking havoc in the DDA negotiations, the DG went along, merely acquiescing to the demands made by that country for a small package of deliverables for the Nairobi meeting, the trade envoys said.

At the HoD meeting, the DG referred to the small package involving LDC issues, outcomes on the export competition pillar in the Doha agriculture package (while remaining silent on the market access and domestic support pillars), and a number of provisions to improve transparency in several issues. The DG also spoke about the need for voluntary contributions from members in the domestic support pillar.

The DG's remarks were echoed by the US which called for a package of outcomes involving LDC issues, export competition in the Doha agriculture package, and transparency provisions.

The US also spoke about its ‘non-paper' (see SUNS #8095 dated 18 September 2015 for details on the non-paper) on domestic support, arguing that the underlying rationale is that all members must voluntarily contribute to reduce their domestic farm subsidies.

The European Union made an ambivalent statement to the effect that it is ready to work for a package of issues, while acknowledging that all unresolved issues in the DDA must be addressed in a comprehensive framework.

Japan said there is no appetite for the Doha negotiations after the Nairobi meeting. [The Doha negotiations were launched in 2001 by the EU and the US, with support from Japan.]

Switzerland surprised the participants at the HoD meeting on Thursday with its strident criticism of the small package involving the issues in the farm export competition pillar, particularly the elimination of export subsidies. Switzerland said it will not accept deliverables only in the export competition pillar without respecting the "parallelism" with other areas as laid out in the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.

The Swiss statement came as a rude shock at the meeting, as it brought to the fore specific concerns over the small package by individual countries, according to a developing country trade envoy.

In sharp opposition to the DG's and the US interventions, the coordinators of various groups such as the G-33, the African Group, the LDC group, the ACP group, as well as trade envoys of China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Uganda among others issued strong statements denouncing the efforts to construct a small package on a pick-and-choose basis.

Indonesia, on behalf of the G-33 group, said "we do not have clarity yet on what concrete and meaningful DDA deliverables would be doable and acceptable to all of us."

"The Group is of the view that any ideas on the deliverables for MC10 must pass the test of faithfulness to the development dimension of Doha, especially for developing members and LDCs," Indonesia emphasized.

"For the G-33 and as enshrined under the Hong Kong Declaration," said Indonesia, "meaningful Special Products and accessible and effective Special Safeguard Mechanism are critical development deliverables for developing country members, SVEs, and LDCs."

Indonesia also drove home the message that "members must continue following up the Bali mandate to find a permanent solution for public stockholding programs."

The African Group issued the strongest statement yet that it will not accept a set of ideas on the pretext of a small package, ideas that are inconsistent with the development dimension of the Doha negotiations.

Rwanda said the developing and poorest countries were promised that they would be integrated into global trade through the DDA but now all efforts are directed at taking the life out of the negotiations.

Uganda said the poorest countries will not allow a situation of status quo or perish at this juncture, demanding credible and comprehensive outcomes based on the Doha agenda.

China said it would neither accept voluntary contributions, nor a small package without laying out the roadmap for concluding the Doha negotiations.

India denounced "a call by some members, who want to maintain the ‘status quo' at any cost, for taking a final view one way or another on the DDA."

Without naming the countries, India said some members who were ready to live with a "re-calibrated outcome, now seem to be in a position to contribute nothing to an outcome, as envisaged in the DDA and ministerial decisions thereafter."

"It seems to us, that the attempt therefore is to selectively pick out the elements on which they have some comfort and package them for an outcome at MC-10," India maintained, expressing concern over the latest narrative of these countries "to set terms for a post-Nairobi negotiations in the WTO."

According to India, "a selective package plus a post-Nairobi agenda which would ironically cover the core issues of the DDA seems to be emerging among such members."

India demanded "a comprehensive and balanced outcome in all the three core negotiating areas viz, Agriculture, NAMA, Services as well as internally on all three pillars of Agriculture, even if a downward re-calibration of ambition is a necessary condition for fulfilling the development mandate of this Round."

Even if a "comprehensive" outcome at Nairobi is not possible due to paucity of time, India said it will reject calls to "declare that the DDA is concluded in the extreme-dead." (At the meeting of seven major industrialized and developing countries, held at the Australian mission earlier this week, the US had described the Doha negotiations "is like a ‘patient' which is dead but needs a doctor to certify the death.")

Multilateral negotiations such as those envisaged under are DDA are an on-going process since they are aimed at deep-seated reforms to correct inequities, India maintained.

New Delhi said it will test new ideas or proposals presented by some members whether they are "equitable and do not impose unreasonable expectations on or specifically target a handful of members." India called for urgent discussion on a proposal made by G90 members for "strengthening the Special and Differential provisions in the current GATT and WTO rules."

Brazil spoke about negotiating as well as political deficit to address the outstanding issues in the DDA. Brazil said it would press for progress vis-a-vis the status quo on all three pillars of agriculture, particularly domestic support.

In crux, the HoD meeting is a writing on the wall about the growing anger and frustration of developing and poorest countries who feel increasingly that they are being misled and denied "developmental" outcomes as set out in the DDA, several envoys concluded. +