TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec15/07)
15 December 2015
Third World Network

Members differ on rules issues at MC10
Published in SUNS #8155 dated 14 December 2015

Geneva, 11 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- Members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) differ sharply on whether discussions on rules issues should be taken up by ministers at the Nairobi Ministerial Conference, which begins on 15 December.

At an informal open-ended meeting of the Negotiating Group on Rules on 10 December, its Chair, Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, said that the proponents of a rules outcome in Nairobi continue to consider action in Nairobi on their proposals as not only doable but necessary, while some others consider that there was no possibility for deliverables on rules in Nairobi and that all issues should be taken up post-Nairobi.

According to trade officials, the Chair said at the beginning of the meeting that "we seem to be in an amber light situation" in respect of the proposals on the table, i. e. members are not sure whether to stop in anticipation of the red light or risk speeding ahead to beat the light.

Trade officials said that in the run-up to the Nairobi Ministerial, the proponents have concentrated on securing an outcome on improving transparency in anti-dumping and countervailing proceedings, as well as an outcome on fisheries subsidies (both transparency in the granting of such subsidies as well as restrictions on certain types of subsidies).

Ambassador McCook recalled that Director-General Roberto Azevedo, in his capacity as Chair of the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), had held consultations with 17 delegations on 9 December to discuss the rules issues.

The DG had noted the lack of convergence around any of the proposals, such that members were not in a position to identify agreed rules deliverables for Nairobi, and that indeed the proposals have not been the subject of real negotiations.

According to trade officials, two proposals were discussed. The first is a combined proposal from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group and Peru on developmental and food security aspects of fisheries subsidies, building upon earlier proposals from the ACP and Peru.

The second is a proposal from the Russian Federation that calls for talks to be held in the WTO Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties Committees on transparency in anti-dumping and countervailing practices, with an outcome by the end of 2016.

Ambassador McCook said that the DG had concluded by saying that there was no clear way forward on rules.

However, the proponents were free to continue to push for their issues all the way through Nairobi, and the Chair could facilitate discussions in Nairobi.

Ambassador McCook then asked delegations for their views, including how, and to what extent, meaningful discussions could take place on the issue in Nairobi.

According to trade officials, Japan, the European Union, Peru, Hong Kong-China, New Zealand, Singapore, the Russian Federation, Iceland, Papua New Guinea, Uruguay and Australia were of the view that an outcome on rules is still possible - even if sharply reduced in ambition - and want to pursue talks at the Nairobi ministerial conference.

Peru and Russia said that their respective proposals were simple (the focus is on post-Nairobi work), easy to understand and imminently "adoptable" in Nairobi.

However, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Pakistan, the United States, Bahrain, Brazil, Venezuela, and Malaysia voiced skepticism on whether an agreement could be reached on rules in Nairobi and/or whether ministers should be devoting their limited time to the issue given the lack of progress to date.

Chinese Taipei, Korea and Argentina said that they were ready to talk but had concerns about how the talks would be conducted in Nairobi.

According to trade officials, Ghana, India, China, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey expressed opposition to any outcome on rules in Nairobi or had serious doubts that anything could be achieved. They wanted the talks to continue post-Nairobi.

The Chair concluded the meeting by reiterating that those who wish to discuss their proposals in Nairobi can and are able to do so, and that mechanisms will be found for allowing the discussion to take place.

He noted that any discussion would involve line-by-line negotiation of a ministerial text, something that did not happen in Geneva.

It is up to the proponents to initiate the work, said the Chair. +