TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct15/23)
29 October 2015
Third World Network

ACP tells MC10 to reaffirm Doha mandates, aim to conclude DDA
Published in SUNS #8120 dated 26 October 2015

Geneva, 23 Oct (Kanaga Raja) - Trade Ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, in a strongly worded Ministerial Declaration issued in Brussels on the upcoming WTO Nairobi Ministerial Conference (MC10), have made clear that the Doha Development Round (DDR) needs to continue and deliver on development mandates, in and after Nairobi.

The ACP Ministerial Declaration has called for reaffirmation of all Ministerial declarations and General Council Decisions relevant to the Doha mandates, and ensure that post-Nairobi, "all unresolved issues in the DDA on the development mandate are addressed and yield specific development milestones to conclude the DDA as soon as possible."

[According to civil society groups at the meeting and the subsequent press conferences, the ACP Ministerial Declaration in effect rejected the view of WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo, who spoke earlier and had pushed for a 'mini-package' at Nairobi, and repeatedly said the "big players" did not want to continue the DDR after Nairobi - implying that hence there can be no DDR after Nairobi. The EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom (Sweden) had taken a similar approach in her speech the previous day. Both Azevedo and Malmstrom had told the Ministers that a "mini-package" on export competition, LDC package and transparency rules was the best Nairobi outcome. SUNS]

The Declaration was issued by the Trade Ministers of the ACP Group following a meeting that they held in Brussels from 19 to 21 October to review the preparations for MC10, to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18 December, as well as to provide political guidance for their Member States.

In their Declaration, the ACP Ministers highlighted several principles that they said need to be adhered to in the constructive engagement in pursuit of a meaningful outcome at MC10.

These include: (a) Decisions are taken through a transparent, inclusive, and consensus-based Member-driven process; (b) Agreement on a development package taking into account the concerns and interests of all ACP States; (c) Affirmation of the development objectives of the DDA in all aspects of negotiating outcomes, including the principle of special and differential treatment and less than full reciprocity; and (d) Agreement in Nairobi reaffirming WTO Members' commitment to conclude the DDA in line with its development mandate.

The ACP Ministers urged Members in Nairobi to deliver on the following proposals in favour of developing countries and submitted by them:

(i) Ministerial affirmation that, in the course of future negotiations in agriculture and non-agricultural goods, the flexibilities for LDCs (Least Developed Countries) and SVEs (Small and Vulnerable Economies) so far, will be maintained as a starting point and the inclusion of flexibilities for members of customs unions;

(ii) Affirmation that developing Members with low binding coverage of non-agricultural goods tariff lines will be exempt from making tariff reductions consistent with the objectives of Rev. 3 (draft NAMA modalities text); and countries covered in paragraph 13 of Rev.3;

(iii) Affirmation that the level of ambition for any of the flexibilities shall be adjusted commensurate with the level of ambition in the negotiations as a whole;

(iv) Ministerial affirmation of the agreed flexibilities for developing countries in the services negotiations found in GATS Articles IV and XIX; the Negotiating Guidelines and Procedures; the Hong Kong Declaration, including Annex C, including those specifically for LDCs, which do not contain any concept of reciprocity in the content of offers and Procedures; and further affirmation that these flexibilities shall not be undermined by new proposals;

(v) Concrete and binding decisions in the areas put forward by LDCs;

(vi) Binding decisions in accordance with Doha Declaration paragraph 44, on the twenty-five DDA special and differential treatment agreement specific proposals submitted by the G90;

(vii) A decision on the disciplines on fisheries subsidies that impact the food security of developing countries and fish resources, as referenced in JOB/TNC/46, representing a minimum package for development toward achieving the targets set out in Agenda 2030 SDG 14, while at the same time ensuring that such disciplines would not consign developing countries, especially SIDS (Small Island Developing States), which will need subsidies for their expansion, to only artisanal and small scale fishing;

(viii) Commitment that the application of flexibilities that are not linked to the tiered formula in agricultural market access to developing countries shall be maintained;

(ix) Agreement on the extension of the transition period under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement for LDC Members for certain obligations with respect to pharmaceutical products which expire in December 2015 and waivers on Articles 70.8 and 70.9 requested by the LDC Group in document IP/C/W/605;

(x) A concrete and binding decision on cotton;

(xi) A substantial reduction in trade distorting domestic support, in particular by developed countries;

(xii) Affirmation that different tariff reduction targets should be defined for developed countries, developing countries, and SVEs in accordance with the principles of special differentiated treatment and less than full reciprocity, and confirming that LDCs shall be exempt from making tariff reductions;

(xiii) Agreement on the G33 proposal for procedures to operationalize the Special Safeguard Mechanism that was agreed in the July Framework 2004;

(xiv) Agreement on Special Products; and

(xv) Examination of all types of NTBs (non-tariff barriers) in developed country markets impacting on developing country exports.

The Declaration called upon Members to affirm their commitment to the DDA and its mandates, in particular on core areas of importance to developing countries, and emphasised that future negotiations on agriculture and NAMA tariff cuts must be commensurate with meaningful cuts in domestic support and that flexibilities shall be accorded to developing countries, especially LDCs and SVEs.

On agriculture, the ACP Ministers, acknowledging that agriculture is of critical importance to the economies of the majority of the ACP Group of States, reaffirmed that special and differential treatment for developing countries shall be an integral element of the agricultural negotiations, taking into account the possible negative effects of non-implementation of commitments by developed countries on ACP States.

"On domestic support, we reiterate the importance we attach to achieving meaningful cuts in Overall Trade Distorting Support (OTDS), Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS), and disciplines to prevent box shifting. The AMS and de minimis flexibilities for developing countries, in particular LDCs, SVEs, and NFIDCs [net food importing developing countries] in accordance with Rev. 4 [draft agriculture modalities text], should be preserved and the integrity of Article 6.2 of the Agreement on Agriculture shall be maintained."

On export competition, as per Rev.4, the Ministers reiterated their support for the progressive and parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidies and export measures with equivalent effect, including in the area of food aid, while taking into account problems faced by developing countries.

They urged that the flexibilities currently envisaged in existing texts be maintained including those for LDCs and SVEs.

"On Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, we call on Members to work expeditiously towards finding an appropriate permanent solution."

On non-agricultural market access (NAMA), the ACP Declaration reaffirmed the need to preserve in the NAMA negotiations, at minimum, the core flexibilities contained in Rev.3 that fully take into account ACP States' development priorities, and that LDCs shall be exempted from taking any tariff reductions.

With respect to the current NAMA tariff reduction formula, the Ministers noted that many WTO Members, including ACP States, have stated that the Swiss formula is not do-able. They also reiterated the need for any agreement to include treatment of preference erosion.

In continued negotiations, the Ministers urged that tariff reduction for those developing Members that are part of a customs union of developing countries which may include LDCs and SVEs shall be no more than the average tariff reduction of all the other Members of the customs union and shall in no case result in final tariffs that are below the Common External Tariff.

"The tariff reduction commitments shall also be moderated to avoid widening divergences in tariff bindings amongst the Members of such customs unions."

With respect to non-tariff barriers, the Declaration said that WTO Members should refrain from imposing measures on trade from ACP States, that amount to discriminatory or unnecessary barriers to trade.

"Technical assistance should be provided to support developing country initiatives aimed at ensuring ACP participation in relevant standard setting processes and to address other non-tariff barriers to trade."

On services, the ACP Ministers noted that the Group had identified non-exhaustive sectors and modes of supply of interest to its Members in JOB/TNC/46.

They recalled that Members may decide how to proceed on their own offers taking into account their particular development objectives and offers from other Members. At the same time, they reiterated key principles and flexibilities embedded in the General Agreement on Trade in Services, the Negotiating Guidelines and Procedures, the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration and its Annex C.

In domestic regulations negotiations, the ACP Declaration recalled that developing countries have the flexibility in their own discretion with regard to taking on any new commitments, consistent with their right to regulate and development policy objectives.

"To further the development component of the DDA, developed Members should take on commitments in qualification requirements and procedures to facilitate developing country services market access. We also call upon Members to reaffirm that LDCs shall not be required to take on any new commitments."

The Ministers urged Members to take note that LDCs' share in world merchandise and services trade is miniscule and they suffer staggering current account deficits.

"Therefore, we emphasise the need for value-added and binding decisions based on proposals from the LDC Group, to be taken at the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC10) in Nairobi as a matter of priority toward the real and greater integration of the LDCs into the multilateral trading system."

On Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), the ACP Declaration reaffirmed Paragraph 35 of the Doha Declaration and paragraph 41 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.

"We urge the WTO Membership to continue to address, in a substantive and meaningful manner, the particular structural disadvantages and inherent vulnerabilities of small, vulnerable economies and call for due regard to be given to the priorities of SVEs in all areas of the negotiations to ensure their further integration into the multilateral trading system. We also reiterate that the WTO must deliver flexibilities for SVEs as part of any development outcome."

The ACP Ministers supported the extension of the decision for MC10 to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions, and to continue the electronic commerce work programme with special attention to the situation in developing countries, particularly in least-developed country Members and least connected countries.

"In this regard, we also urge the recognition of the principles of non-discrimination, predictability, and transparency."

They also called on WTO Members to agree in Nairobi to make permanent the moratorium on the application of Subparagraphs 1(b) and 1(c) of Article XXIII of GATT 1994 on non-violation and situation complaints (NVCs) to the TRIPS Agreement.

The Ministers underlined the importance of MC10 and look forward, therefore, to effectively and constructively participate in the deliberations of the conference.

"In addition, we call on all Members to ensure that any proposed Ministerial declaration for Nairobi is developed in a transparent, inclusive and consensus based process," they said.