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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct15/24)
29 October 2015
Third World Network


MC10 must deliver strong development outcome, say CSOs
Published in SUNS #8123 dated 29 October 2015


Geneva, 28 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- Nearly 200 civil society organisations (CSOs) across Africa and India have called for a strong development outcome with significant gains for developing and least-developed countries at the upcoming Nairobi Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

This call came in a joint statement addressed to the heads of government of the 54 countries on the African continent as well as India on the occasion of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit taking place in New Delhi from 26-29 October.

In their statement, the CSOs said that the "success" of the Ministerial should not be valued in terms of reaching the low hanging fruits, which favours developed countries but one that actually equips developing countries to address key economic, social and environmental needs.

They also underlined that the Doha Development Round (DDR) should not be concluded in Nairobi or later without a meaningful development package and no other round should be launched without addressing the core development issues that the DDR was mandated to address.

"In particular, the Singapore Issues including government procurement, competition policy, investment and any ‘new issues' would severely restrict space for implementing development-oriented policies and hence should not be touched."

The joint statement was signed by 119 organisations and individuals in India and 71 organisations from across Africa.

Among the signatories were the ACP Civil Society Forum; Society for International Development; The Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI); Rwanda Civil Society Platform; Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN); All India Drug Action Network; Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU); Diverse Women for Diversity; Focus on the Global South-India; Forum Against FTAs; Public Services International, Asia and the Pacific; Right to Food Campaign; The National Fish-workers Forum (NFF): and Third World Network-India.

In an accompanying press release, Dr. Yash Tandon, Chairman of SEATINI (Uganda, Zimbabwe and Kenya), one of the signatories, said that "there is real fear that the developed countries will try to end the Doha Round in Nairobi without a credible development outcome and launch a new round that casts aside developing country concerns. This must not be allowed to happen".

Biraj Patnaik, from the Right to Food Campaign-India, another signatory to the statement, said that "agriculture across developing countries including in Africa and India face a stiff challenge in the current negotiations from the USA and the EU who refuse to grant a permanent solution to the food security proposal and a development- oriented outcome in agriculture, including on cotton subsidies and market access".

Dr. Biswajit Dhar, Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, who also signed the statement, said that "India and the African countries must coordinate and support each other to ensure that all developmental issues including concerns of the LDCs and the Cotton-4 (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) are adequately addressed in Nairobi."

In their joint statement, the African and Indian CSOs said one of the main objectives of the WTO was to create more opportunities for the developing world, and even more so for least developed countries (LDCs), so they could advance their development progress. As a result, the world was to see a more balanced economic and, hopefully, socially just order.

However, they said, after twenty years of the WTO, "we do not see any materialisation of those promises from global trade rules. In spite of some strengthening of developing country voices, the developed countries and the transnational corporations within them have grown more powerful, strident and aggressive."

They have made it clear that they are interested in the WTO only to "take" from and not to "give" to developing countries.

The CSOs charged that the current Director-General, Roberto Azevedo (himself from a developing country), and the WTO Secretariat and its functionaries, are taking pro-developed country positions in the desperation to retain the WTO's relevance as a multilateral forum.

In fact, even the WTO's Doha Development Round, launched in 2001 and mandated to address core development issues faced by the South, continues to see stiff opposition by the developed countries to any concessions for developing countries and to removal of barriers, which could actually enable them to provide better economic and social opportunities to their people.

Special and differential (S&D) treatment in agriculture and NAMA, for example, through easier terms for tariff cuts, Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) in agriculture, preferential Rules of Origin for LDCs, and most importantly talks on agricultural subsidies, including the crucial issue of cotton subsidies, given by the West, have failed to get anywhere.

In this context, the CSOs strongly supported the statement made by the Kenyan Foreign Minister, Ms Amina Mohamed, on July 1 that the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations cannot be concluded without "credible" developmental outcomes.

"It is not only that the WTO is not helping realize development pathways in the South; it is actively threatening development policy space and development-oriented programmes in the developing world," said the CSOs.

The CSOs noted that the stiff resistance by the USA, EU, and other developed countries to negotiate a permanent solution to the food security proposal and a development-oriented outcome in agriculture, which is not only of key interest to India and several African countries, but also to many other developing countries, is a clear evidence of this challenge.

Agriculture and food, and the ability to continue to produce food, is a core development need in both India and Africa, they said, adding that they would like to also support the position of the Cotton-4 countries on the elimination of all subsidies on cotton and Duty-Free-Quota-Free (DFQF) market access to LDCs on cotton and its products, which is of key interest to African countries as well as India.

In NAMA (non-agricultural market access), the developed countries continue to insist not only on adverse formulas on tariff cuts that will force developing countries to cut more tariffs, but also on "Sectorals or zero-for- zero" where some sectors will see total elimination of tariffs with immediate effect.

"The NAMA proposals will severely limit domestic industrialization and job creation prospects in Africa and India."

The joint statement noted that the TRIPS Agreement under the WTO set up intellectual property rights (IPRs) standards which are being pushed through trade rules; it creates barriers to technology development and transfer in developing countries with impacts on access to medicines and health care, key agricultural inputs including seeds varieties and traditional knowledge.

However, the TRIPS Agreement had offered some flexibilities to developing countries that could help them protect important development priorities. "These flexibilities are now being increasingly challenged."

Moreover, said the CSOs, the TRIPS waiver for LDCs is continuously under negotiation and is used as a lever to extract other concessions. Now, developed countries are opposing amendments to TRIPS rules to prevent ‘biopiracy' from Africa, India and several other developing countries.

They also pointed out that the current WTO situation presents grave contradictions. Instead of creating spaces to foster growth and development, "we see more and more aggressive demands are made on developing countries to prise open their economies on very unfair terms, which would threaten livelihoods, food security, locally beneficial industrialization and beneficiation (local value addition)."

The current negotiations at the WTO clearly indicate these contradictions, created by the aggressive positioning of the developed countries: pushing a binding Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) while not granting a permanent solution to food security and offering only a "best endeavour" LDC package; offering no cuts in domestic subsidies but instead asking developing countries to cut subsidies and grant further market access; and blocking TRIPS flexibilities while pushing for higher IPR protection through TRIPS.

Further, said the CSOs, the developed countries are creating parallel and aggressive mechanisms through secret negotiations of plurilateral agreements such as the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), Information Technology Agreement-2 (ITA-2), Agreement in Environmental Goods and Services, and bilateral trade and investment agreements, all of which thwart the multilateral nature of the WTO.

The joint statement went on to highlight the following specific recommendations that civil society in India and across African countries want to put forward to their leaders:

* Ensure a strong development outcome at Nairobi with significant gains for developing and least developed countries. The "success" of the Ministerial should not be valued in terms of reaching the low hanging fruits, which favours developed countries but one that actually equips developing countries to address key economic, social and environmental needs;

* The Doha Development Round should not be concluded in Nairobi or later without a meaningful development package and no other round should be launched without addressing the core development issues that the DDR was mandated to address. In particular, the Singapore Issues including government procurement, competition policy, investment and any "new issues" would severely restrict space for implementing development-oriented policies and hence should not be touched;

* Specific deliverables of a development package should include but not be limited to: a permanent solution on the food security proposal that allows essential subsidies to producers for supporting public food stockholding; discussions on domestic subsidies including on cotton subsidies, by the advanced countries like the USA and the EU; an agreement on elimination of export competition; special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries in all aspects of agricultural and NAMA negotiations including on tariff cuts and safeguard mechanisms; ‘Biodiversity Amendment' to the TRIPS Agreement to prevent ‘biopiracy'; and a strong LDC package. On the other hand, further advances in and weakening of the flexibilities of the TRIPS Agreement, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and further talks on plurilaterals and mega-regional FTAs should be blocked; and

* Conduct the negotiations in a transparent, inclusive and fair manner that truly reflects the multilateral nature of the WTO and not participate in small ‘green room' discussions and dealings that leave a large number of Member States out of discussions that would critically impact their people and the planet.

The joint statement further said that India and Africa have played a key role in the WTO negotiations, most often supporting strong developing country positions.

"They have a crucial role to play in this Ministerial. It is of tremendous importance that the WTO Ministerial Conference is being held in Africa. As a strong and articulate advocate of developing country space in the WTO, the African countries, and Kenya in particular, have a responsibility to ensure a balanced and development- friendly outcome at the Ministerial."

The "success" of the Ministerial will only be a success if it delivers on key development objectives of the South that includes the interests of the people in Africa and India and benefits all people in the developing world.

"If it can't, it is of no interest to us," said the CSOs. "Working together, India and Africa must ensure our people have access to diversified opportunities for livelihoods, jobs and incomes, healthy food to eat and the ability to produce it locally, have access to adequate services, such as drinking water, health and sanitation, natural resources, and live in a safe and sustainable environment. No trade rules should come in the way of attaining these objectives. The WTO in particular must be allowed only to forward and not to hinder these objectives."

The CSOs further said: "Our leaders must also remember the commitments they made in the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is to ‘leave no one behind'. They know it will be impossible to follow the principles of this Agenda and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without fair trade rules and other means of implementation."

That is why they fought so hard on these issues in these negotiations. But unless they hold strong against pressures and keep reiterating their development priorities and fight for the policy space to realise those, their commitments to the global community and to their own people will be meaningless.

"The WTO and the Nairobi Ministerial is the place where this commitment must be made real," the joint statement stressed. +

 


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