TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec15/09)
15 December 2015
Third World Network

African, other Trade Ministers angry over US efforts to end DDR
Published in SUNS #8156 dated 15 December 2015

Nairobi, 14 Dec (D. Ravi Kanth) - Trade ministers from Africa and several other countries are seething with anger over concerted attempts by the United States and other powerful countries to terminate the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) trade negotiations in Nairobi even before the beginning of the World Trade Organization's tenth ministerial conference on Tuesday (15 December), several trade ministers told the SUNS.

"We would not be willing to come here and agree for the conclusion of the Doha Round," South Africa's trade minister Rob Davies told the SUNS.

South Africa will not accept "some compromise language that would amount to saying legally that the Doha Round is over and we would not agree to that," Minister Davies maintained.

Minister Davies said "we are going to look at all kinds of proposals carefully and we need to ensure the confirmation of Doha Round."

He said "a large majority of countries want to continue with the Doha Round and the mandate is in favour of developing countries."

"We don't want to see that mandate discarded in favour of something whose future we don't know, that is the real point," Minister Davies emphasized.

Even before an honest discussion began on the reaffirmation of the DDA negotiations at Nairobi on Tuesday, the US Trade Representative (USTR), Ambassador Michael Froman, issued a verdict that it is time to abandon the Doha negotiations because they remain deadlocked.

"After 14 years, including the past two years of intensified engagement, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Cecilia Malmstrom, EU trade commissioner, and many others have been clear about the need to chart a more productive path," Ambassador Froman wrote in the Financial Times on Monday.

The USTR called for bringing "new approaches to the table... Doha issues are too important to leave to the Doha architecture that has failed for so long."

Further, the American trade chief argued that the agriculture subsidies are provided by the emerging countries and not the US and the EU.

The USTR said "freeing ourselves from the strictures of Doha would also allow us to explore emerging trade issues."

"One way or the other, this week's WTO ministerial conference in Nairobi will mark the end of an era," Froman maintained.

"Pretending otherwise would intensify the search for solutions outside the WTO, raising questions about its relevance in trade negotiations," the USTR argued.

A former Western trade envoy described Froman's article and the remarks it contained as "an insult to the Kenyan cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed and Kenya."

Asked to comment on Froman's remarks, the South African minister said "I don't want to respond."

"We have come here with a very substantial draft text and the big issue is the way the work program after Nairobi is defined," said Minister Davies.

"Here we have got very different and divergent views of a large majority of members who want to reaffirm the Doha mandate and Doha work program."

The South African minister also cautioned that there cannot be a "pressure-cooker type of process."

"What is clear is that the Africa Group, the ACP countries and other developing countries want to continue with the Doha Round," he emphasized.