TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov15/06)
9 November 2015
Third World Network

Azevedo's doomsday scenarios to promote US, EU agendas
Published in SUNS #8127 dated 4 November 2015

Geneva, 3 Nov (D. Ravi Kanth) -- The World Trade Organization's Director-General Roberto Azevedo painted a doomsday scenario last week that the United States and the European Union will "disengage" if members reaffirm continuation of negotiations on all outstanding issues of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) in the Nairobi ministerial declaration, several ACP trade envoys told the SUNS.

According to the envoys, at a retreat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries over the weekend of October 31-November 1 in Lausanne, Azevedo cautioned the participants about the looming dangers if there is no outcome at the Nairobi ministerial meeting.

He spoke repeatedly about the twin dangers of paralysis at the WTO and "disengagement" by the industrialized countries if developing and the least-developed countries demand reaffirming of continuation of the DDA talks in the post-Nairobi work program, said several trade envoys from the ACP group.

Azevedo urged the ACP countries to adopt "flexible" and "pragmatic" positions at the tenth ministerial meeting beginning on December 15 in Nairobi, and said that otherwise they will suffer the consequences, according to several envoys who attended the meeting.

If there is no outcome on the so-called small package of deliverables - elimination of export subsidies, binding commitments in the package for least-developed countries, and transparency-related improvements in the anti- dumping provisions - then, there will be no engagement of trade majors at the WTO, Azevedo maintained.

Negotiations, Azevedo told the ACP meeting, are happening outside the DDA.

The DG spoke at length about the new rules and standards that are currently being negotiated in the Trans- Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement between the United States and the European Union.

The standards and the non-tariff barriers (NTBs) negotiated by the US and the EU will be brought back to the WTO if there are no negotiations at the multilateral trade body because of the continued paralysis, Azevedo suggested.

The DG said the developing countries did not want the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement at the WTO but today the same developing countries are comfortable with the TRIPS agreement for proposing minimum standards.

Therefore, Azevedo argued, members must ensure negotiations at the WTO rather than allowing them to be decided outside the trade body, according to the participants.

Azevedo overly praised the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), saying that it provides enormous benefits to members. The DG emphasized that the TFA is a "template" for doing things at the WTO. If you remain flexible and adopt pragmatic positions, then, there is a chance for multilateral negotiations, Azevedo repeatedly told the ACP countries.

"What's going to happen in Nairobi," according to Azevedo, will depend on whether members adopt "realistic" positions, particularly on the post-Nairobi work program.

The DG said that there is nothing for the industrialized countries in the DDA, arguing that they will simply disengage if "you [ACP countries]" insist on continuing with the DDA talks.

The DG maintained that some of the proposals tabled by the G-90 countries for binding improvements in the special and differential treatment (S&DT) provisions are "very ambitious." He said the industrialized countries will give a generalized "NO" to the binding improvements in the S&DT provisions.

On the LDC proposals too, Azevedo said, there will be outcomes without indicating whether they will be binding results as compared to the best endeavour outcomes in the ninth ministerial meeting in Bali in 2013.

Several ACP countries dismissed Azevedo's statement, saying it was difficult to know whether he was speaking for the US or for the developing and poor countries who are seeking "credible and balanced developmental outcomes in a development round."

"Azevedo's interventions are an extreme form of fear-mongering as was done before the Bali meeting when he said the WTO will be paralyzed if there is no agreement on trade facilitation," said a central African trade envoy.

In sharp contrast to the WTO DG's assessment, the executive director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) Arancha Gonzalez and the secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Mukhisa Kituyi urged the ACP countries to double their efforts for securing the developmental outcomes as promised in the DDA at Nairobi and after Nairobi.

The two chiefs asked the ACP countries to ensure that the Doha negotiations are continued after Nairobi, otherwise there will be nothing for them after the tenth ministerial conference.

The DG disagreed with the ITC executive director over her calls for continuing with the DDA negotiations after the Nairobi meeting, said another trade envoy.

At the end of the retreat on Sunday, the ACP countries decided to stick to their ministerial declaration issued in Brussels last month. They dismissed the overly alarmist calls of some members to pursue new issues, without delivering on the "developmental" components of the Doha agenda.

"The ACP countries felt that they cannot abandon the Doha negotiations without resolving all the fundamental developmental issues in the DDA and launch negotiations on new issues," an African envoy told the SUNS.

The ACP countries want an explicit ministerial declaration reaffirming continuation of negotiations on all outstanding issues of the DDA.

Although they prepared a strong statement to be issued at the heads of delegations meeting on Tuesday (November 3), it was not issued at the meeting as no member took the floor, the African envoy told the SUNS.

On post-Nairobi work, the ACP ministers said: "We call upon Members to reaffirm in Nairobi, the Ministerial declarations and General Council Decisions relevant to the Doha mandates; and to take concrete steps to conclude the remaining issues in the DDA, with development as a key component."

"We further call upon Members to 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," the ACP ministers had maintained.

In addition to the scare-mongering tactics, Azevedo is holding Room W meetings from Thursday without proposals from the proponents of export competition. Azevedo would use an electronic screen to make changes in preparing the ministerial declaration in Room W, the African trade envoy said.

In short, the Director-General is leaving no stone unturned in delivering the results for the trade majors in utter disregard to the demands made by developing and poorest countries at the WTO for developmental outcomes and continuation of the DDA negotiations after the Nairobi meeting, said an African trade envoy. +