TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec15/08)
15 December 2015
Third World Network

China, India, Indonesia & SA press for outcome on food security, SSM
Published in SUNS #8156 dated 15 December 2015

Nairobi, 14 Dec (D. Ravi Kanth) - China, India, Indonesia, and South Africa pressed for an outcome on public stockholding programs for food security and special safeguard mechanism (SSM) at the WTO Ministerial Conference here, beginning on Tuesday (15 December) before considering the deliverables on the export competition pillar for agricultural products, trade envoys told the SUNS.

The United States, the European Union, Brazil, Australia, and Japan, however, opposed any outcomes on public stockholding programs for food security and SSM at the meeting.

The five countries said the Nairobi deliverables in agriculture should focus on the export competition pillar that includes the elimination of export subsidies, export credits, food aid, and state-trading enterprises, according to the people familiar with the meeting.

At a specially convened closed-door meeting of nine countries at Kenyatta International Conference Center (KICC) at the initiative of Brazil and the European Union and chaired by the chair for the World Trade Organization's General Council Ambassador Fernando de Mateo of Mexico, the two sides remained sharply polarized on what ought to be the outcomes in the agriculture package.

The chair for Doha agriculture negotiations Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis of New Zealand was present at the meeting. Trade envoys from the nine countries - the US, the EU, China, India, Brazil, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, and South Africa - took part in the meeting to prepare the ground for their ministers who are expected to discuss the three issues later, according to a participant familiar with the meeting.

It is significant that the EU and Brazil, the erstwhile rivals in the Doha agriculture negotiations, took the initiative to convene the meeting, said another participant.

"There was no progress at the four-hour meeting as participants remained sharply divided on the elements in the three issues," according to the participant who asked not to be quoted.

Prior to the closed-door meeting, trade ministers of the G-33 farm coalition had held a detailed meeting in which they reiterated "the importance of agriculture for ensuring food security, livelihood security, and rural development in developing members, including least-developed countries (LDCs) and small and vulnerable economies (SVEs) as enshrined in the Doha and Hong Kong mandates."

The Indonesian trade minister Tom Lembong chaired the G-33 meeting in which several countries - China, India, the Philippines, and others - pressed for an outcome on SSM at the meeting at any cost.

In the "face of increased volatility of food productions and prices on the global market since the food and financial crises in 2008, we underline the importance of protecting the small and resource-poor producers from market volatilities through public stockholding for food security purposes and special safeguard mechanism (SSM) in the developing country members' food security, livelihood security and rural development strategy," the G-33 ministers said in their statement.

The G-33 members also vowed "to advance negotiations where concrete progress achieved including focusing on elements of the DDA and with a view to achieve an outcome that would among others rectify some of the gross imbalances in the existing WTO rules on agriculture."

The G-33 members expressed deep disappointment that in the Geneva process, some countries failed to make meaningful progress for convergence, "despite all the constructive engagement and flexibilities that have been demonstrated by the G-33 members."

Disagreeing with the assessment of the Doha agriculture negotiations Chair, Ambassador Vitalis, about the "impasse" on SSM, the G-33 trade ministers urged members to engage in hard negotiations based on the Doha ministerial declaration and subsequent declarations.

"Any political will to resolve the impasse must be reflected through flexibilities in the negotiations," the G-33 maintained.

It warned about the "negative impact of failure to deliver concrete outcomes in Nairobi on the credibility of the WTO as the negotiating forum for multilateral trade rules that could address developmental challenges faced by developing country members."

The G-33 countries underscored the need for "maintaining special and differential treatment in the areas of export competition."

On the post-Nairobi work program, the G-33 countries issued the strongest statement yet, saying that "WTO members shall continue seeking a comprehensive conclusion of the DDA after Nairobi."

The 47-member group called for discussing critical tools for addressing food security, livelihood security and rural development concerns in the post-Nairobi work. The WTO members must continue negotiation on the special products for developing country members.