Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec15/05)
10 December 2015
Third World Network
Nairobi MC shaping up as David vs. Goliath battle
Published in SUNS #8153 dated 10 December 2015
Geneva, 9 Dec (D. Ravi Kanth) - The World Trade Organization's tenth
ministerial conference in Nairobi beginning on Tuesday (15 December)
is all set to be a Biblical David vs. Goliath battle in which a large
majority of developing and the poorest countries will take on the
most powerful trading elephants - the United States, the European
Union, and Japan.
These three, who used the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York's World
Trade Center to force the WTO membership to launch as a single-undertaking,
the multilateral trade negotiations at Doha, Qatar in November 2001,
are now hell bent on burying the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations
without a trace on African soil, several trade envoys told the SUNS.
According to Mr. Chakravarthi Raghavan, a veteran trade analyst and
Editor-Emeritus of the SUNS, "The entire preparatory process
leading up to Nairobi, and the way in which the US and the EU, aided
by the secretariat, have orchestrated and launched the Doha negotiations
and manipulated the talks all these years to ensure that their treaty
commitments at Marrakesh are buried without a trace, raise some fundamental
questions about their 'good faith' in treaty negotiations, a requirement
of the Vienna Law of Treaties, and risk in the eyes of the public
at large any legitimacy about all past commitments, including those
forged at Marrakesh. And without such legitimacy, the WTO will not
endure, and there will be upsurge in developing nations' public against
their own commitments and obligations at the WTO."
If the draft Nairobi Ministerial Declaration is any indication, said
an African trade envoy, the developing and poorest countries will
not only be waging a grim battle for a few credible deliverables but
will also be fighting to preserve the continuation of the DDA negotiations.
In almost all deliverables of interest for the developing and poorest
countries, the chances of binding outcomes are ruled out.
Even the so-called LDC package for the poorest countries, which includes
duty-free and quota-free market access, simplification of preferential
rules of origin, a waiver for services providers from least-developed
countries, and even in cotton, will be buried without trade in sub-Saharan
Africa, containing the largest number of the LDCs, trade envoys engaged
in the negotiations told the SUNS.
Even the outcomes on the public stockholding programs for food security
and the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) for which the G-33 group
of countries fought so hard over the last two years, are close to
zero unless China, India, Indonesia, and the 44 other countries fight
to the finish.
The only area where there could be a binding outcome is on export
subsidies. But binding outcomes in two other areas of the export competition
pillar involving trade-distorting export credits and food aid are
ruled out because of the intransigent opposition from the United States,
said a trade envoy involved in the agriculture negotiations.
Never in the 14-year-old DDA negotiations, have things looked so bleak
and miserable for the developing and poorest countries as now, when
their trade ministers congregate in Kenya's capital on next Tuesday.
Unless they wage a do-or-die battle at Nairobi in a unified way, the
chances are that they will come back to Geneva after the tenth ministerial
meeting to remain as "excluded" members at the WTO forever,
according to trade envoys.
The five-page bracketed draft Nairobi Ministerial Declaration has
been presented in such a way as to create a situation that if developing
and the poorest countries fight to retain the language they have proposed
for reaffirming the continuation of the DDA negotiations, they could
be accused of bringing the Nairobi meeting to a collapse.
However, if the countries of the South let the developed countries
have their way then there is no future for them at the WTO as plurilateral
and new issues of market access will become the order of the day,
according to developing country trade envoys.
After 14 years of launching the DDA negotiations along with the European
Union, Japan and other developed countries, the US has ensured that
there is no mention of the DDA, including the Bali Ministerial Declaration,
in the crucial Part III dealing with the post-Nairobi work program,
an African trade envoy told the SUNS.
At a Room W meeting on Tuesday (8 December) evening, the US insisted
that "We welcome the progress in the DDA which is embodied in
the following Decisions and Declarations we have adopted at our Tenth
Session" must remain in square brackets as it refused to agree
with the language, an African envoy said.
In Part I, the paragraphs for reaffirming the continuation of the
DDA negotiations as proposed by the African Group, and China, India,
Indonesia, South Africa, Ecuador, and Venezuela are also placed in
The African Group's proposal in square brackets reads: "We reaffirm
the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), and the Declarations and Decisions
adopted at the Doha and at the Ministerial Conferences held since
then, and further reaffirm our full commitment to conclude the DDA
negotiations on that basis."
The language proposed by China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Ecuador,
and Venezuela says: "We reaffirm the Doha Development Agenda
(DDA), and the Declarations and Decisions adopted at the Doha and
the Ministerial Conferences, held since then including the Decision
adopted by the General Council on 1 August 2004, and further reaffirm
our full commitment to conclude the DDA negotiations on that basis."
The five developing countries have also proposed language to say that
"we reaffirm the Ministerial Declarations and General Council
Decisions relevant to the Doha mandates; and commit to take concrete
steps to conclude the remaining issues in the Doha Development Agenda,
with development as a key component."
The so-called "middle group of countries", such as Australia,
Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Chile, Mexico,
and Costa Rica have proposed the following language: "On the
future of the Doha Development Agenda and the negotiating function
of the WTO, we take note of significantly different perspectives,
which remain very difficult to reconcile. Despite candid discussions
and serious efforts, we have yet to reach an agreement on this key
The WTO Director-General, Roberto Azevedo, suggested at the Room W
meeting that the middle group's proposal is more viable.
The EU and the middle group of countries also inserted language on
new issues by saying that "we agree that the WTO should have
the ability to take on, at least on an exploratory basis, any trade-related
issues deemed necessary in order to stay relevant and in keeping with
the evolution of the global economy. We further agree to undertake
the exploration of such issues in a manner that does not undermine
the ongoing work to deal with the outstanding issues."
In short, the developing and poorest countries have a last chance
to protect and fight for themselves at the Nairobi ministerial akin
to the battle David waged against Goliath in biblical times.