Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct15/11)
15 October 2015
Third World Network
GC meet shows Members sharply divided
Published in SUNS #8110 dated 12 October 2015
9 Oct (D. Ravi Kanth) -- Trade envoys remained sharply divided at
the WTO's General Council meeting on Thursday (October 8) after the
developed countries led by the United States and the European Union
fiercely opposed demands of developing and least developed countries
for "credible," "balanced", and "developmental"
outcomes at the Nairobi ministerial meeting, several trade envoys
told the SUNS.
The divisions between the two sides came into the open on the package
of deliverables for the World Trade Organization's tenth ministerial
conference at Nairobi as well as on the post-Nairobi roadmap for unresolved
issues in the Doha Development Agenda.
The battle lines on the substantive as well as process-related issues
seemed more like a North-South divide as the US and the EU seemed
in no mood to continue with the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations
regardless of their failure to address the agreed mandates, particularly
in agriculture, since 2001, several trade envoys maintained.
The European Union, the United States, Japan, and Norway among others
emphasized leaving behind the Doha architecture in the post-Nairobi
process because of the repeated failures to provide the anticipated
The EU and the US launched the Doha Round immediately after the September
2001 attacks in New York, promising the developing and least developed
countries that they will be integrated into the global trading system
through a developmental reform of agriculture and other areas.
Despite their decision to walk away from the Doha architecture, the
trans-Atlantic trade elephants maintained somewhat disingenuously
that they are still ready to address the outstanding issues in agriculture
and other areas while pursuing new issues.
In sharp contrast, coordinators for different developing country coalitions
such as Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Arab Group, Lesotho coordinating
the African Group, Barbados for the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific)
group, Indonesia leading the G-33 coalition, and Guatemala for the
small and vulnerable economies pressed for a credible package of developmental
deliverables based on the mandates of the Doha Development Agenda.
Several major developing and least-developed countries such as China,
India, Kenya, Egypt, Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, Ghana, Venezuela,
Cuba, Bolivia, Korea and Ecuador among others issued nuanced messages
for preparing "developmental" outcomes for the Nairobi meeting
and also for ensuring a clear roadmap for addressing the remaining
In his intervention at the beginning of the GC meeting, Director-General
Roberto Azevedo said, "there was a willingness on the basis of
a package of specific issues which is DDA-minus" and commencing
work on a final Nairobi document at the G-20 trade ministers' meeting
on Tuesday. He claimed a small package of deliverables - export competition,
"development issues with a particular focus on LDCs," and
a set of possible outcomes to improve transparency in a number of
areas - may gather convergence at Nairobi.
But Azevedo has not indicated till now the proponents of the small
package of deliverables. Azevedo said that "ministers also gave
their backing to a parallel discussion on the path of future work
on unresolved Doha issues after Nairobi."
Nonetheless, "whatever we deliver in Nairobi, it will not be
viable or credible, to announce it as an agreed conclusion of the
DDA single undertaking," Azevedo said.
The director-general admitted candidly that "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 - 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 its demise,"
he argued. "Clearly these views will be extremely difficult to
reconcile," the DG maintained.
Azevedo said the divide continues to persist on how to address the
core issues of the DDA and their development dimension after Nairobi
- whether under the DDA framework, or whether under a reformulated
Against this backdrop, members must start working on the basis that
there will be a Ministerial Declaration that would reflect the stock
of decisions at MC 10, as well as provide clear guidance on future
"My proposal therefore is to start a process that will lead us
to text based negotiations on an MC 10 Ministerial Declaration,"
the DG said, adding that he would hold consultations on how to go
about the process.
Kenya's trade envoy Ambassador Stephen Karau issued a strong message
that "something has to be delivered in Nairobi" to ensure
the credibility of the WTO.
"In this regard we support having a drafting group to start work
on the issues that the Director General has identified as promising
for outcomes in Nairobi," Amb. Karau maintained.
Given the paucity of time, "we therefore support the Director
General's proposal of having a drafting group to start work immediately,"
Kenya, which will host the Nairobi ministerial meeting, emphasized.
But in an abrupt response to the Kenyan ambassador's call, the DG
said that he is not embarking on any drafting group at this juncture,
according to people familiar with the meeting.
Azevedo reiterated that his proposal is to start a process of consultations
Australia underscored the need for defining the package in detail
without prejudice to other aspects of the Doha Round as well as initiating
a process for a narrative of a post-Nairobi work program.
The EU said it is prepared to engage through a negotiating group for
a Nairobi package centered around export competition based on 2008
revised draft modalities, and some deliverables for the least-developed
countries. The EU, however, expressed concern on improvements in special
and differential treatment flexibilities as demanded by a group of
The EU's new trade envoy Ambassador Marc Vanheukelen said categorically
that "if we could not reach agreement on the core DDA issues
in the last 14 years and in particular over the last two years when
we considered significantly re-calibrated approaches, this doesn't
inspire confidence in our ability to advance on the same basis in
Therefore, "new approaches" as well as "parallel exploration
of possible negotiations in other areas" are critical for bringing
the WTO back into the centre of "trade rule-making."
The US trade envoy, Ambassador Michael Punke, said that he would agree
with the DG's assessment for a finite number of issues that could
bring consensus at Nairobi. The US envoy ruled out any chance for
an outcome on special safeguard mechanism (SSM) which failed due to
lack of convergence over the last 14 years.
The US said it offered a proposal on domestic support but was shot
down before the sunset on the same day, according to a negotiator
present at the meeting. Punke said there will not be any consensus
to declare the DDA dead, nor consensus to continue the DDA after the
Nairobi meeting. Washington is open to post-Nairobi work plan dealing
with any issue but will not reaffirm the DDA architecture which has
failed for 14 years.
In sharp contrast to the EU and the US positions, China called for
the Doha round based on the existing mandates to continue after the
Nairobi meeting. China's trade envoy, Ambassador Yu Jianhua, said
while he would agree with the need for a ministerial declaration,
it must not be drawn from a subjective orientation. "Drafting
should not deny or change Doha mandate," said Ambassador Jianhua.
He said China is willing to consider new issues such as e-commerce
and investment on an exploratory basis.
Brazil issued the strongest statement yet on how members are frustrated
because of continued failure to address the trade distorting domestic
support in agriculture. Brazil's trade envoy Ambassador Marcos Galvao
said all promises to reform agriculture subsidies and market access
barriers are "broken" and "agriculture" always
remains as "the main victim of recurrent hit-and-run... THAT
is what really compromises the credibility of our work in this organization
and undermines trust among ourselves."
Ambassador Galvao said candidly that "for Brazil this is a sine
qua non condition: In order to consider joining a consensus for an
eventual extremely limited outcome in Nairobi, we will definitely
need a collective commitment to carry on with our work, beginning,
as of January, in the areas where real negotiation and agreement could
once again not be postponed."
"This commitment and the substantive agreements we may reach
in Nairobi are two inseparable parts of one same package," the
Brazilian envoy emphasized. Brazil is not going to pay for new issues
in return for addressing the unresolved areas of agriculture, he said.
South Africa's trade envoy Xavier Carim said the package of deliverables
for the least-developed countries must be acceptable to them. He said
members recognize the need for DDA to continue because of unresolved
issues. Ambassador Carim said South Africa will not accept any transparency
provisions that add administrative burden or interfere with domestic
process. Ghana said the Doha Round must not be buried in Nairobi.
India said it has consistently demanded that "a comprehensive
and balanced outcome in all the three core negotiating areas viz.
Ag, NAMA 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 this
"We believe that we should continue our efforts to reach as close
as possible to that result at Nairobi," India's ambassador Anjali
Prasad told her counterparts. She said "credibility and balance
of the package will be essential for the success of Nairobi."
"Another critical success factor for Nairobi," said Ambassador
Prasad, "would be the terms on which we decide to advance the
remaining DDA, 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," according to the Indian envoy. She said
"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 remaining DDA issues," India argued. Ambassador Prasad emphasized
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."
In short, the GC meeting exposed the widening divide between the North
and South in what is billed as a developmental round. It has to be
seen whether countries of the South can stop the sudden push to guillotine
the Developmental Round on the African soil around December 18. +