TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov15/03)
6 November 2015
Third World Network

Vast WTO majority for continuing Doha negotiations after Nairobi
Published in SUNS #8125 dated 2 November 2015

Geneva, 30 Oct (D. Ravi Kanth) -- The United States and some other powerful WTO members appear isolated in their attempts to end the Doha Round after Nairobi, while a large majority of the membership have demanded an explicit commitment in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration to continue negotiations on all outstanding issues of the Doha Development Agenda.

This has become clear from a report issued by the panel of three facilitators, named by the WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo, to help advance work on the preparation of a Ministerial Declaration for the tenth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC10) in Nairobi beginning on December 15.

The three facilitators are: Ambassador Gabriel Duque of Colombia, Ambassador Stephen Karau of Kenya, and Ambassador Herald Neple of Norway.

According to the report issued on Thursday (29 October) by the three facilitators after a round of "confessional" meetings with members, a large majority of the members have demanded an explicit commitment to continue negotiations on all outstanding issues of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration.

Out of around 57 countries that expressed their views to the panel in confessional meetings, some 37 developing and least-developed countries (LDCs), including the coordinators for major coalitions such as the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) Group, the African Group, the LDC Group, the G-33 group, the SVEs (small and vulnerable economies), the Arab Group, the RAMs (recently acceded members), and the C-4 (Cotton-four countries), told the panel that the Nairobi ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization cannot put an end to the DDA negotiations.

The developing countries and the LDCs called for "preserving the legal architecture" as established in the 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration, the 2004 July Framework Agreement, the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, the Bali Ministerial Declaration, and "past work such as the Rev. 3 and Rev. 4 draft modalities in NAMA and Agriculture," the facilitators noted in their report.

Ahead of their confessional meetings with members, the facilitators had raised three questions: i) what should be the "structure" of the Ministerial Declaration, ii) what "elements" should the Declaration contain, and iii) what "process" should be followed to arrive at a consensual Declaration.

Despite being couched in constructive ambiguities, the eight-page report clearly revealed that only a handful of countries led by the United States, the European Union, Australia, Japan, Canada, and a few other developing countries like Mexico, Chile, and Costa Rica want the Doha Round to be terminated at the Nairobi ministerial.

"Such an outcome of denying oxygen to DDA negotiations is not acceptable to a large majority of developing and the poorest countries who are demanding the continuation of the Doha Round at any cost after the Nairobi meeting."

On Thursday, the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, told leaders of the African countries during the third Indo-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi that "when we meet at Nairobi Ministerial of the WTO in December, we must ensure that the Doha Development Agenda of 2001 is not closed without achieving these fundamental objectives."

"We should also achieve a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security and special safeguard mechanism in agriculture for the developing countries," Mr. Modi said.

However, by using terms like "many delegations," "a number of delegations," and "some delegations," the three facilitators gave a mixed picture, said a trade envoy.

"But in reality, a large majority of countries spoke their mind unambiguously that a handful of countries cannot stop the Doha negotiations," said an African trade envoy.

The facilitators, for example, said "a number of delegations" [the United States, the European Union, Australia, Japan, and Canada among others] said "while they could agree to continue the negotiations on the remaining DDA issues, they could not accept any statement to the effect that the Doha Round would continue, or any reference to previous mandates or progress made," the three facilitators said in their report.

"One delegation [the United States] said that it would prefer an explicit statement declaring the end of the [Doha] Round," the panel noted in its report, according to a developing country trade envoy.

However, "it [the US] could agree to a Ministerial Declaration that was silent on the fate of the DDA," the facilitators said, according to the envoy.

In sharp disagreement, other members said the NMD [Nairobi Ministerial Declaration] cannot remain silent on the future of the Doha Round. Some countries also called for continuation of negotiations, without mentioning a specific framework.

On DDA Deliverables for Nairobi, there were differing views as to how they need to be incorporated in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD).

Many members, for example, said the DDA deliverables for Nairobi would depend on the progress made in the negotiating groups.

But some members "made it clear that there was a link between what they could agree to on the Nairobi DDA package and what could be agreed on DDA post-Nairobi," the facilitators maintained.

More importantly, many members stressed "that they would not agree to any DDA Nairobi package in the absence of an explicit guarantee that pending issues in the DDA would continue to be negotiated after MC10."

Significantly, many members pressed for outcomes identified in agriculture, albeit with different nuances. But some members underscored the need for outcomes in all areas of export competition.

"A few of these delegations stressed that without an outcome in export competition [Argentina and Brazil], they would not be in a position to support any outcome for Nairobi," the facilitators said.

Members also emphasized that "the focus could not only be on export competition, without assurances about what would happen in the other two pillars [domestic support and market access] in agriculture."

They said ministers needed to provide clear direction that negotiations would continue on the domestic support and market access pillars.

More importantly, "a number of delegations stressed that the special safeguard mechanism (SSM), special products and public stockholding for food security [the G-33 coalition of countries led by Indonesia, the African Group, and many members of the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) group] were critical elements for them."

But some members like the US, Australia, Paraguay have all along maintained that there was not enough time to deal with the SSM, special products, and public stockholding programs for Nairobi.

These countries are also known to have "expressed strong objection to an SSM as a deliverable for Nairobi, given the absence of results in market access."

On cotton, according to the facilitators, some members demanded that the issue had to be included in the Declaration "in an explicit and concrete manner" with a "binding outcome" based on their proposal.

The Cotton-four countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali - demanded a comprehensive outcome in market access, domestic support, and export competition, including a down payment of 50% cut in the first year of implementation.

The facilitators maintained that "a large number of delegations" called for a "credible development" component in the Nairobi outcomes, including widespread support for an LDC package comprising duty-free and quota-free market access, preferential rules of origin, services waiver and cotton.

"A group of delegations [the LDCs, and the C-4 countries]," according to the three facilitators, demanded "stand- alone, binding and commercially meaningful decisions on these issues making reference to paragraph 1.11 of the Bali Ministerial Declaration."

That declaration called for binding outcomes on the LDC issues.

The delay in concluding the Doha Round of negotiations meant a failure to "readdress the imbalances in the multilateral trading system, both in terms of levelling the playing field between developed and developing countries and in narrowing the gap in commitments between recently acceded Members (RAMs) and original WTO members," said some members, according to the facilitators.

Many members, according to the facilitators, demanded that the issues under the DDA which would not be part of the deliverables at MC10 should form part of the post-Nairobi work, especially the core issues of Agriculture, NAMA and Services. Some members also included rules along with these core issues.

On the process between now and the Nairobi ministerial meeting and at the Nairobi meeting, "one delegation [India] said that no draft prepared by any source could form the basis for the drafting processes," according to the facilitators.

"A number of delegations stressed that any drafting process should take place under the authority and oversight of all Members and that any alteration to any draft should reflect consensus and divergences should also be clearly articulated," the three facilitators maintained.

Further, a large number of countries, according to the facilitators, insisted on "reaffirming the principles of special and differential treatment and less than full reciprocity" as guiding principles for both DDA and future negotiations.

But "one delegation [the United States] said this could only be acceptable, if it was made clear that these principles applied exclusively to LDCs and vulnerable economies," the panel said in their report.

Further, "one delegation mentioned that commitments should be undertaken in line with Members' prosperity and weight in international trade, and the length of time since their access," the panel said.

The US also said that it will not agree to S&DT status for China and India during several closed-door meetings.

The report suggested that members expressed "different and often divergent views on whether non-DDA issues should be included in any post-Nairobi work."

Some members said "no new issues should be introduced before the conclusion of the DDA and stressed that even then, they could only be considered on an exploratory basis and for some by explicit consensus," according to the facilitators.

However, "one delegation stressed that it could not support the introduction of any new issues other than those already listed in the Doha Declaration and that those issues could only be considered on an exploratory basis," the facilitators noted.

Nevertheless, some members said "the inclusion of new issues in the future work of the organization would maintain its relevance as a forum for negotiations and for addressing the realities impacting international trade."

But "one delegation [the European Union] said that it could only accept language on the remaining DDA issues, if there was language on new methods or ways to tackle them, as well as language on new issues. In its view, the Ministerial Declaration should recognise the right of Members to bring issues of interest to the WTO in order to start exploring them with a view to possible negotiations."

Many members said e-commerce is an area where more work could be pursued after Nairobi. Other new issues mentioned by members to the facilitators include "investment, including investment incentives and subsidies; competition; SMEs [small and medium enterprises]; RTAs [regional trade agreements]; global value chains; food security in the context of a broader agriculture discussion; government procurement; consideration of Mode 4 in services; environmental harmful subsidies; tropical products; traditional knowledge in intellectual property; and unilateral measures."

In short, the facilitators' report seemed to put a gloss on the isolation of some powerful members who want to put the Doha Round to bed despite an overwhelming majority of countries wanting to continue the Doha negotiations to bring about credible outcomes for leveling the playing field in the multilateral trading system. +