Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct15/09)
12 October 2015
Third World Network
G7, G20 conclaves give differing signals on Nairobi, post-Nairobi
Published in SUNS #8109 dated 9 October 2015
Geneva, 8 Oct (D. Ravi Kanth) - Trade ministers and senior officials
from the United States, the European Union, China, India, Brazil,
Australia and Japan remained divided at Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday
(October 5) on commencing drafting work at this juncture without having
clarity on the specific issues that form part of the ministerial declaration
for the World Trade Organization's tenth ministerial meeting in Nairobi.
On the following day (October 6), however, trade ministers of the
G-20 coalition in which all the seven countries are present gave a
diametrically opposite signal to WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo
to commence work through a "credible" committee for drawing
up the ministerial declaration/work program.
"This sudden transformation in a matter of two days remains a
puzzle," said a capital-based senior trade official familiar
with the two meetings. "Reconciling these two messages is going
to be challenging," according to the official.
To start with, the meeting of the so-called G-7 countries resulted
in differences on a broad range of issues, and an understanding or
consensus of sorts on two elements: on a "Doha-minus" package
and a ministerial declaration/ work program.
There was no agreement on the contents of the small package, and the
need for a drafting committee without clarity on the issues that would
go into the Doha package.
There was convergence of sorts on the need for preparing a "Doha-minus"
package that would include as many issues as possible in the short
span of time available to members between now and December 15 when
the WTO ministerial meeting is scheduled to begin in Kenya. Also,
there was understanding of sorts that there will be a final ministerial
declaration/work program at the end of the four-day ministerial meeting.
But the seven countries were unable to come to any understanding on
two other issues concerning the "post- Nairobi narrative"
and the "small committee" for drafting the ministerial declaration,
according to participants familiar with the meeting.
Besides, there was no agreement among the G-7 countries on the small
package of outcomes: export competition, LDC issues, and transparency-related
improvements in existing rules.
The WTO DG listed the issues of the small package and also said at
the meeting that the G-33 coalition is demanding special safeguard
mechanism (SSM), according to people familiar with the deliberations.
China said it is okay with the small package of deliverables of export
competition and specific concessions for the least-developed countries.
India's Trade Minister, Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, underscored the need
for "balance" in the package. The Indian minister said work
can begin on the package but "it will be without prejudice to
other issues of Doha Development Agenda."
She also said there has to be clarity first on the specific issues
of the package and it should be "DDA-minus to the minimum".
Nairobi can't be a make-or-break meeting, the Indian minister said,
according to people familiar with the meeting.
Brazil demanded an "assurance that all other issues in the Doha
agriculture mandate will be dealt with, without any interruption."
Kenya's foreign minister, Ms. Amina Mohamed, who is going to host
the Nairobi Ministerial, told SUNS that there was clarity and progress
on two issues.
"There was general understanding on the Doha-minus package as
long as members are very clear as to what would happen to the rest
of the mandate and the ministerial declaration," she said after
Meeting on the margins of the G-20 trade ministers' gathering, the
Kenyan Minister Amina Mohamed and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo
discussed three issues: the "small package of deliverables,"
the "post-Nairobi narrative," and the small drafting committee
to prepare a ministerial declaration.
In his remarks at the meeting of the G-7, chaired by a senior Australian
trade official, Azevedo said the "small package of deliverables"
include export competition, the package of concessions for the least-developed
The DG also spoke about the demand raised by the G-33 members on SSM
outside the small package. The US has consistently opposed the SSM;
but on the small package, it maintained that there would be most likely
convergence on these issues, according to a participant familiar with
The US also said that it will give comfort to countries on special
and differential treatment flexibilities and less- than-full reciprocity
(LTFR) without suggesting whether developing countries such as China,
India, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and Indonesia will be eligible
for such flexibilities.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said categorically that she
wants an outcome on all issues in the export competition pillar such
as export subsidies, export credits, food aid, and state trading enterprises.
The EU commissioner also said she wants improvements on the transparency
in the rules concerning services, and non- tariff barriers for industrial
"We are for a large and comprehensive package on Doha; but now
it seems it is not possible [for some members] and we will see whether
we have to do with smaller package but still comprehensive,"
Asked whether the EU is open to "smaller but comprehensive [package],"
Commissioner Malmstrom said "yes," maintaining that the
EU wants "balance" and everybody should raise their issue.
But some issues are more difficult than other issues and they need
to be discussed, Commissioner Malmstrom maintained.
When the discussion moved on to the post-Nairobi narrative, the Australian
chair asked Brazil to spell out its views on what must happen after
Brazil categorically said the package of deliverables is clearly linked
to the post-Nairobi narrative, emphasizing that all the unresolved
issues of the Doha agenda will remain part of the post-Nairobi work
The Indian minister supported the Brazilian position and later China
The deputy US trade representative said there will be neither convergence
to terminate the Doha negotiations nor an agreement to continue with
the Doha talks, at the Nairobi meeting.
After the discussion on the package of deliverables and post-Nairobi
roadmap, the DG informed the meeting that he would ask a small group
to start drafting the ministerial declaration.
The Indian minister asked the DG, "What are we drafting? We must
be specific on what goes into the ministerial declaration."
Minister Sitharaman said members must first finalize the specific
elements so as to start work on the drafting of the declaration. She
also maintained that Nairobi cannot be a make-or-break meeting.
China also expressed its reservations on the small committee. Subsequently,
other ministers also sounded caution before commencing work on the
In a nutshell, the G-7 meeting came to an understanding on only two
issues - the need for finalizing a "Doha- minus" package
of deliverables for the Nairobi meeting, and a ministerial declaration/work
But on the other two fundamental issues - the post-Bali work program
and the small package of deliverables - there was no consensus at
In sharp contrast to the understandings and differences at the G-7
meeting, events at the G-20 trade ministers' meeting took a totally
Notwithstanding the differences on the small package and the rush
to form a drafting committee, the G-20 trade ministers gave the green
signal for commencing work on drafting the possible outcomes for the
"The drafting committee has to be balanced, and it has to be
decided by the General Council," Kenya's Foreign Minister Amina
Mohamed told SUNS after the ministerial meeting.
"Members of the drafting committee must be drawn from different
groups and coalitions and the outcome has to be credible and fair
so to ensure developmental results," Minister Mohamed emphasized.
Minister Mohamed will chair the Nairobi ministerial meeting beginning
on December 15.
Turkey's economic minister Nihat Zeybekci said there are three clear
positive results from the G-20 meeting.
First, there is a growing acceptability for institutionalizing the
G-20 trade ministers' meeting to address major trade-related global
challenges. Second, there is consensus among trade ministers that
WTO Director-General Azevedo should proceed with the drafting committee.
And three, trade ministers want "credible" outcomes at the
Nairobi meeting, despite lack of clarity on the post-Nairobi work
WTO Director-General Azevedo did not address the media at the end
of the meeting, but said in a statement: "The support of G-20
countries and all other WTO members is vital in moving forward towards
strong and successful outcomes in Nairobi.
"I welcome the recognition by G-20 Ministerial that WTO members
need to also intensify discussion on the path forward after Nairobi.
"I was encouraged to hear that no one disagrees on the continuing
central importance of development to this work and the core unresolved
issues of the Doha Development Agenda, such as agriculture, industrial
goods, and services, will continue to be an important part of discussion,"
The coming days, according to Minister Amina Mohamed, will be critical
as time is short and some concrete work must be completed in Geneva
even if certain issues are decided in Nairobi.
"There is clear acknowledgement that due to paucity of time,
we would not be able to do everything in the Doha Development Agenda
and therefore, we have to finish some things now and agree with what
we have to do with the rest in the outcome document," she maintained.
She said repeatedly that "there is clear understanding that what
is done as part of the Doha-minus package will be linked to the post-Nairobi
The Kenyan minister said every member has the right to put their proposals
before the drafting committee. But members must be cautious and responsible
in putting their proposals in the last hour.
European Union Trade Commissioner Malmstrom reiterated Brussels' demand
for a comprehensive package but its willingness to work with a "small
Several industrialized countries, including the United States, spoke
about their preference for a small package of deliverables.
South Africa's trade minister Rob Davies said "nobody now believes
we can go to Nairobi and come out with an agreement for concluding
the Doha Round, nor nobody is going to Nairobi to declare the Doha
Round is dead."
"But there are growing views that the post-Nairobi will remain
linked with the Doha Round," he maintained.
Minister Davies said "what is going to be there in the ministerial
declaration or the work program is going to be a critical issue and
one of the things we made it very clear is the drafts should be made
available so that we can all study them before reacting to them."
More importantly, said Minister Davies, the Nairobi outcomes for the
least-developed countries cannot be "recycling of the Bali results
all over again."
"Those Bali decisions were not even implemented and so we have
to know what is going to be additional to the Bali decisions for LDCs,"
he told the SUNS.
The South African minister expressed strong reservations on the so-called
"transparency" deliverables for the Nairobi meeting, saying
his country is not in favour of binding provisions.
India's trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman called for clear outcomes
on special products, special safeguard mechanism, and the permanent
solution for public stockholding programs for food security at the
Nairobi ministerial meeting. But she remained silent on the issue
of the drafting committee at the G-20 meeting.
Indonesia's new trade minister Tom Lembong issued the strongest statement
yet at the G-20 trade ministerial, saying that "we are in a crisis
situation" without knowing the deliverables for the Nairobi meeting.
Minister Lembong listed three priorities for the Nairobi meeting.
First, members must agree on "credible and balanced outcomes"
from the perspective of developing countries in a development round.
Indonesia doesn't want "development agenda to be squeezed into
merely an LDC agenda," he said.
As a coordinator for the G-33 developing country coalition, said Minister
Lembong, the second priority is that the Nairobi package must include
"Special Safeguard Mechanism or SSM as a balancing ingredient
for a do-able Nairobi package from development perspective."
And third, members "should agree on a post-Nairobi work program
to properly conclude the Doha Round."
Clearly, there are unresolved issues that surfaced at the two meetings
and it has to be seen how things will proceed in the coming days before
the Nairobi meeting.