Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct15/10)
15 October 2015
Third World Network
Credibility and balance of Nairobi package essential, says India
Published in SUNS #8110 dated 12 October 2015
Geneva, 9 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- The credibility and balance of the
package will be essential for the success of the tenth ministerial
conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to be held in Nairobi,
Kenya this December, India told a meeting of the General Council on
Noting that as of now there are indications that convergence may be
feasible only on a small set of issues, India nevertheless stressed
that there should be no presumption on what this small set will constitute.
"That there is convergence on a certain set of issues as being
mentioned should not be taken for granted," India emphasised.
India's statement, and that of a number of other delegations, came
following a report by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo on a range
of consultations that was held recently as well as his assessment
of the current state of play in the negotiations.
In their interventions, developing countries, including the Arab Group,
the African Group and the informal group of developing countries,
stressed that the development dimension must be at the heart of any
Many developing countries also called for a balanced outcome and for
the Doha mandates to be maintained. It was also important to deliver
something for the Least Developed Countries, they said (see separate
In his report as Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC),
the DG told the General Council that through the various consultations
over recent weeks, "I think members have identified a road to
success in Nairobi. Clearly there are many obstacles along the way,
but none in my view are insurmountable. We have very little time remaining."
He spoke of the potential deliverables for Nairobi as including, but
not necessarily limited to: development issues with a particular focus
on LDCs, export competition in agriculture, and a set of possible
outcomes to improve transparency in a number of areas.
The DG said that "we have a general sense of what may be on the
table in terms of substantive deliverables (though it is not a closed
package, or a sure package) - and I think we should recognize that
agreement on the elements we are talking about would represent real
But it is now very clear that the post-Nairobi conversation must take
place at the same time, and these two elements need to move in parallel,
he said (see below).
In its intervention, India (represented by Ambassador Anjali Prasad)
said that the WTO is holding its ministerial meeting for the first
time in Africa, and it should be "our collective effort to make
it a successful Ministerial and to fulfill the development promise
of the DDA [Doha Development Agenda]."
Noting that "we are now in a critical phase of the negotiations",
and the countdown to the Nairobi Ministerial has begun, India said
that it has consistently held that a comprehensive and balanced outcome
in all the three core negotiating areas viz. Agriculture, NAMA (non-agricultural
market access) and Services, as well as internally on all three pillars
of Agriculture, even if with a downward re-calibration of ambition,
is a necessary condition for fulfilling the development mandate of
"We believe that we should continue our efforts to reach as close
as possible to that result at Nairobi," India underlined.
However, as of now there are indications that convergence may be feasible
only on a small set of issues, said India, highlighting that, "Credibility
and balance of the package will be essential for the success of Nairobi."
According to India, another critical success factor for Nairobi would
be the terms on which "we decide to advance the remaining DDA"
issues, should it be difficult to achieve consensus on a comprehensive
set of outcomes.
"Nairobi, in such a situation, cannot be either the conclusion
or the end of the DDA," India stressed.
India believes that multilateral negotiations such as those envisaged
under the DDA are an ongoing process, especially when they are aimed
at addressing existing inequities in the trading system.
The framework provided by the DDA is a valuable component for attaining
this goal, and should continue to anchor the deliberations on the
remaining DDA issues, it said.
India also underlined that special and differential treatment is an
integral component of all pillars of the negotiations.
"Any calls for changing the existing WTO legal paradigm and seeking
further stratification among developing countries will not be conducive
for advancing our work, and could complicate the negotiating process
immensely," it cautioned.
The WTO stands for a rule-based multilateral trading system. The rules,
needless to say, derive their legitimacy from ministerial mandates,
which are the WTO's highest legal governing structures.
"Any attempt to undermine the mandates and the rules in totality
or selectively would not be in the interest of the system nor would
it be helpful in the journey to Nairobi," said India.
"We realize that the time remaining for MC10 is very short. As
we move towards Nairobi, India is ready to engage constructively.
We collectively should not be found wanting in our quest for a meaningful
and balanced package on DDA issues."
In this context, India believes that the suggestion for a drafting
group or whatever form the drafting process takes on the Nairobi outcome
documents needs further deliberation.
"Clearly, at this stage, there is no convergence on the substantives.
As such, complete clarity and agreement will be necessary on the precise
task of the said group."
India noted that divergences in Members' positions persist not only
on the post-Nairobi narrative but even on the shape and form of the
issues that would constitute the package of deliverables at Nairobi.
"These differences are substantive and do not stem from the mere
failure to find a commonly acceptable language to reflect decisions.
It is only in the fitness of things that they are resolved in the
respective negotiating bodies."
In India's view, a drafting group or process, however well intentioned,
would lack the required institutional memory and bandwidth to forge
consensus on substantives.
Further, on substantive areas, consensus building must be based on
proposals of proponents. "We have heard time and again that any
progress on an issue can only be proponent-led. This principle must
be observed in all cases."
India also reiterated that transparency and inclusiveness in the run-up
to MC-10 is crucial. "It is important that we follow a member-driven
bottom-up approach, and ensure that the required work is completed
at Geneva itself prior to the ministerial."
REPORT BY THE TNC CHAIR
In his report, DG Azevedo recalled the "Room W" (one of
the meeting rooms at the WTO) meeting with heads of delegations on
17 September where he reported that progress on some key issues, like
domestic support and market access in agriculture, NAMA and services
was looking very difficult.
While continuing work on those efforts, he had said that it was time
for members to start working more intensely on issues where there
appeared to be more convergence and which might be potential deliverables
According to Azevedo, these included - but not necessarily limited
to: development issues with a particular focus on LDCs, export competition
in agriculture, and a set of possible outcomes to improve transparency
in a number of areas.
He said a range of consultations have taken place since that last
Room W meeting which have further pointed things in this direction,
"even though it is not the preferred outcome for many of you".
Reporting on the meeting on LDC issues, held on 29 September, he said
that he had asked the LDC Group Coordinator, Ambassador Shameem Ahsan
of Bangladesh, to give an indication of what their forthcoming proposals
According to the DG, the Ambassador gave a helpful overview of the
potential issues, which included: some elements of S&D treatment;
all issues of interest to LDCs in Agriculture, including domestic
support; action on Non-Tariff Barriers, including a horizontal mechanism;
binding DFQF market access through scheduling; a reflection of flexibility
that has already been agreed upon in various decisions, guidelines
and Ministerial declarations on trade in services; adoption of simplified
procedures for taking anti-dumping action for use by LDCs and increasing
the threshold on non-application of anti-dumping duties for LDCs;
and strengthening of technical assistance.
Azevedo also reported on two meetings hosted by Australia on 28 September
and 1 October in which he participated. It included representatives
from Brazil, China, the EU, India, Japan and the US, and was joined
by the Chairs of the General Council, the Special Session of the Agriculture
Committee and the NAMA Negotiating Group.
In both meetings, he said discussions revolved around possible outcomes
for Nairobi. In particular, participants discussed the possibility
of agreeing on a subset of DDA issues in Nairobi, combined with a
statement on post- Nairobi work. On the Nairobi package itself, participants
mentioned again, export competition, a development and LDC package,
and some transparency provisions.
According to the DG, they all agreed, however, that there would be
challenges in negotiating these issues. These were promising issues,
but not "sure outcomes". A key issue discussed was post-Nairobi
Here, said Azevedo, the views were quite divergent. "Some wanted
to continue our work and reaffirm the Doha architecture and constructs.
Others said they would be prepared to engage on issues we have been
negotiating under Doha, but were not willing to pursue them under
the current DDA framework."
Participants also acknowledged that it would be difficult to find
common language on the post-Nairobi work, but no one disagreed with
the importance of trying to work out a common message on the future,
which would form part of the overall Nairobi outcome.
Participants explored their commonalities in terms of guidance for
future work. No one disagreed that it would be a meaningful outcome,
if members deliver the package that has been outlined for Nairobi,
centred around development, transparency, and export competition,
the DG maintained.
Participants also argued that such a package would not mean that it
would successfully address the DDA single undertaking. After Nairobi,
participants would be willing to think about how to make progress
on issues that might not have been fully addressed by MC10.
The DG said that the same participants accepted Australia's invitation
and met at the Ministerial level on the margins of the G20 trade ministers'
meeting in Istanbul earlier this week. This time, Ambassador Amina
Mohamed, as Chair of MC10, joined the meeting as well.
Azevedo said the conversation focused on what issues participants
thought could be dealt with in Nairobi and what the approach should
be to post-Nairobi work.
Participants were asked to say whether they were prepared to proceed
on a package of issues which would be DDA-minus, along the lines of
what he had already outlined. And they were asked if they were willing
to evaluate whether and how we should start working on a final Nairobi
Azevedo said that the conclusion that he took from that meeting was
that participants were willing to work on both fronts.
In addition to the arguments made at previous meetings, some other
elements emerged more clearly this time, he added. Some participants
said that reassurance regarding post-Nairobi was needed for a successful
outcome in Nairobi. No one seemed to fundamentally disagree with this.
Some stressed the importance of a balanced outcome even in the context
of a package containing some issues only.
Some noted that the post-Nairobi agenda should be open to issues that
are relevant to all members, and some made the point clearly that
the DDA issues must remain the primary focus and cannot be forgotten.
No one disagreed that development should stay central to our conversations
after Nairobi and that principles like S&D treatment and less-than-full
reciprocity should be kept in the post-Nairobi work, said Azevedo.
Differences still remained on the role of the DDA framework in the
post-Nairobi agenda. In spite of that, there was no apparent disagreement
on the desirability of a consensual document, a Ministerial Declaration,
as part of the outcomes for MC10.
The DG also reported on the G20 trade ministers' meeting that he had
attended in Istanbul on 6 October, where Amina Mohamed also joined.
He said that he set out the shape of the potential deliverables that
had been discussed in Geneva and posed two key questions:
* First: was there a willingness to proceed on the basis of a package
of specific issues which is DDA-minus - and therefore should we intensify
our work on the more promising issues that he had outlined earlier,
without prejudice to the other items already being negotiated?
* Second: should work start on a final Nairobi document immediately,
without prejudice to the outcome of this exercise, either in terms
of substance or format?
Azevedo maintained that there was "strong support" to begin
working - in the negotiating groups - more intensively on a package
of specific substantive outcomes for Nairobi, with a focus on areas
where outcomes seem more likely to be successfully concluded.
Again, however, it was clear that work on these issues should not
preclude work on other areas where some members felt consensus may
still be achievable.
No one disagreed with the continuing central importance of development
to this work - nor that core DDA issues which remain unresolved, such
as agriculture, industrial goods and services, will continue to be
an important part of the post-Nairobi discussion.
On post-Nairobi, the DG said that while there is a potential package
on the table, it seems that, whatever "we deliver in Nairobi,
it will not be viable or credible, to announce it as an agreed conclusion
of the DDA single undertaking. This seems to be a consensual view."
In this scenario, the unavoidable question is: what to do with the
DDA issues that are not properly addressed in the Nairobi package?
At this point, there are divergent views on what happens after Nairobi.
Many say that if there is no consensus to end the Doha Round then
it will simply continue - you would need consensus to end it - and
that we should state this clearly. Others say that if we do not deliver
Doha by Nairobi then that will be it - even without a formal statement
affirming the demise of the DDA.
Clearly these views will be extremely difficult to reconcile, he said,
adding, I think we all agree that:
* We want to deliver something in Nairobi and that it should be meaningful;
* Whatever we deliver will not be agreed to be the end of negotiations
on the DDA issues.
* We are still ready to keep pursuing the core issues of the DDA and
their development dimension after Nairobi - although there is no agreement
on how to do this: whether under the DDA framework, or whether under
a reformulated architecture.
"The question is whether we can - or whether we want - to capture
these and other possible commonalities in a consensual text in Nairobi,"
The D-G highlighted a number of options in terms of the type of document
that could result from the Ministerial: a Ministerial Declaration,
which is the usual type of document that you get from these meetings;
a non- consensual Chairperson's statement, which is something we have
done before; or a hybrid of some sort - for example, it could be partly
consensual text and partly non-consensual text.
"Then we arrive again at the question of how such a document
can be produced - how do we get there?"
The D-G suggested, "we start working on the basis that we will
have a Ministerial Declaration that would take stock of the decisions
taken at MC10 and that gives us guidance on our future work. Of course,
this would be without prejudice to what outcome we will have in Nairobi,
but it is important to start somewhere and to aim for the highest
"My proposal to you therefore is to start a process that will
lead us to text-based negotiations on an MC10 Ministerial Declaration,"
"There are still different views on what this process would look
like and I will be informally consulting you about this," he
told the members.
With respect to the process, the D-G pointed to some things that should
be borne in mind: it must be progressive (for example, right now we
still don't know what the Nairobi package will look like); it must
be a bottom-up, transparent and inclusive process; it will not deal
with substance - that will happen in the negotiating groups; and it
should probably start with a focus on the post-Nairobi elements of
the declaration. +