TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov15/11)
16 November 2015
Third World Network

South strikes body blow to US-EU plan to wind-up DDA
Published in SUNS #8132 dated  11 November 2015

Geneva, 10 Nov (D. Ravi Kanth) -- China, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Ecuador, Venezuela and the coordinators of the various developing country coalitions have struck a body blow to a handful of developed countries led by the United States and the European Union and have demanded that the post-Nairobi work program must explicitly reaffirm continuation of the Doha negotiations on all outstanding issues of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), several trade envoys told the SUNS.

China, in a stinging attack, exposed the diabolical attempts of the major industrialized countries to pocket the Trade Facilitation Agreement and run away from the Doha talks without addressing the other central issues of the DDA. The charge forced the US to say that it was not cherry-picking issues but was guided by "national interests".

At a heads of delegations meeting on Friday (November 6), the handful of countries - the US, the EU, and Japan - who are opposing the continuation of the Doha negotiations after the Nairobi meeting, faced a major setback when an overwhelming majority of developing countries demanded unambiguously the continuation of the negotiations in all outstanding areas of the Doha Development Agenda.

India, on behalf of China, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, issued a powerful joint statement on the post-Nairobi work program at the meeting. The four-point statement said "we take note of the progress that has been made towards carrying out the Doha Work programme, including the decisions we have taken during this Ministerial Conference."

"These decisions," the statement emphasized, "are important stepping stones towards the completion of the Doha Round. We reaffirm the Declarations and Decisions we adopted at Doha, and all subsequent Declarations and Decisions notably the Decision adopted by the General Council on 1 August 2004; the Hong Kong Declaration of 2005 and the Bali Ministerial Declaration of 2013."

The six developing countries noted that while progress is made, "more work needs to be done to enable us to proceed towards the full, successful and multilateral conclusion of the negotiations pursuant to paragraphs 45, 47 and 48 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration in fulfilment of the commitments we took at Doha. In those areas where we have reached a high level of convergence on texts, we undertake to maintain this convergence as the basis of further negotiations towards the conclusion."

"Taking note of the progress made so far," the signatories emphasized, the ministers shall direct their officials "to continue working towards the expeditious conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda with a renewed sense of urgency. Further, we ask the Chairman of the General Council to convene a special meeting of the General Council no later than 31st March 2016 and every three months thereafter to review the progress of work done towards this successful conclusion in a time-bound manner."

The statement by the six countries was followed by detailed statements by the coordinators of the 79-member African/Caribbean/Pacific (ACP) Group, the African Group, the Arab Group, the Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), and the Recently Acceded Members (RAMs) - and several other developing countries, who pressed for a strong post-Nairobi work program.

In opposition to over 110 developing and least-developed countries, the US said the repeated failures in 2008 and 2011 coupled with lack of progress on the DDA issues over the last two years should remind members about the need to terminate the Round. Members should be free to bring any issue of their interest without reference to framework and also pursue issues in agriculture and other areas by jettisoning the existing Doha architecture, according to people familiar with the meeting.

The EU issued almost an identical statement, saying that there is no progress in the Doha negotiations over the last 15 years. The EU said members can continue with issues such as agriculture, industrial goods, and rules but with a new framework of flexibilities based on "differentiation," said a trade envoy who was present at the meeting.

Korea, Chile, and Colombia among others underscored the need for adopting a middle path involving the continuation of negotiations for completing the unfinished business in the DDA while pursuing new issues in the post-Nairobi ministerial declaration.

Canada called for taking up new issues such as competition, environment, global value chains, and electronic commerce in the post-Nairobi work program.

Australia supported Egypt for a "collective vision" to decide the way forward after the Nairobi meeting. Brazil did not mention the DDA but called for reform of agriculture in the post-Nairobi work program.

The discussion which was based on the report submitted by the three facilitators - Amb. Gabriel Duque from Colombia, Amb. Stephen Karau of Kenya, and Amb. Herald Neple of Norway - brought into the open the differences between a handful of developed countries led by the US and the EU, and a large majority of developing countries led by China, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

The coordinators of several developing country coalitions such as Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Arab Group, Barbados for the ACP Group, Lesotho for the African Group, and Guatemala for the SVEs, said the post-Nairobi work program must explicitly call for the continuation of the DDA negotiations in all unfinished areas.

South Africa said the interventions by an overwhelming majority of countries demonstrate "wide and strong support for continuation of the DDA in its current architecture," while acknowledging that "a few important members oppose continuation of the current DDA architecture," according to a South American trade envoy.

South Africa suggested that the next step in the process will be to consider textual proposals by members.

WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said there is a "duality and dualism" between two views. Members want the WTO to deliver but the question is how do you resolve these two diametrically opposite positions, Azevedo asked, according to participants at the meeting.

The DG didn't mention that only a handful of countries are calling for the termination of the Doha negotiations while an overwhelming majority of countries demanded that the Doha negotiations must be continued to address the remaining issues after the Nairobi meeting.

During the meeting, China, for the first time, levelled a major charge against the developed countries for having pocketed the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) without addressing other issues in the DDA.

The Chinese envoy Ambassador Yu Jianhua said he thought initially that all DDA issues will be resolved after clinching the TFA despite doubts expressed by several countries. He said he was "naive" to have thought on those lines. Events over the past two years have clearly showed that the developed countries are not prepared to address the DDA issues, after grabbing the TFA, a participant present at the meeting told the SUNS.

Several countries shared China's assessment and said that there was a concerted effort of cherry-picking in which key members concluded the TFA while denying the outcomes on other issues.

Cuba said if the Doha architecture helped the members in concluding the TFA, why is it that the same members argue that it cannot deliver results in agriculture and other areas of the DDA.

In quick response, the US envoy Ambassador Michael Punke suggested that there was no attempt at cherry- picking issues like the TFA. In trade negotiations, said Ambassador Punke, members are driven by "national interests," according to a participant who was present at the meeting.

China also severely criticized the EU and other industrialized countries for proposing new issues without completing the Doha negotiations.

China said it is a thick red line when members suggest jettisoning the DDA work to pursue new issues.

South Africa also dismissed suggestions by Canada and other members for bringing new issues such as global value chains and competition policy on the agenda. Canada, however, maintained that it would press ahead with new issues after the Nairobi meeting.

India, China, and South Africa dismissed the need for new guiding principles for future negotiations as suggested by "one delegation" in the report issued by the facilitators.

The US, according to several participants, had suggested that special and differential treatment and less-than-full reciprocity will only apply to least-developed countries and small and vulnerable economies but not to all developing countries.

India said the GATT 1994 and the Marrakesh agreement have clearly stipulated the guiding principles which underpin all negotiations at the WTO.

Nevertheless, the industrialized countries led by the EU demanded "graduation" for future negotiations in the post-Nairobi work program.

In short, the tug of war between the handful of developed countries on one side, and an overwhelming majority of developing countries will now surface at the actual drafting of the post-Nairobi work program during the next few days. The developing countries must remain united to call the bluff of the trans-Atlantic trade giants, said an African trade envoy. +