TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec15/12)
17 December 2015
Third World Network

MC10 Chair's ambivalent signals on new issues
Published in SUNS #8157 dated 16 December 2015

Nairobi, 15 Dec (D. Ravi Kanth) -- The Chair for the World Trade Organization's tenth ministerial conference Amina Mohamed, Kenya's cabinet secretary, on Tuesday (December 15) has signalled an opening for new issues by emphasizing the importance of global value chains along with the core issues of the Doha Round.

Hours before the inaugural ceremony of the tenth ministerial conference, Ms Mohamed delivered an ambivalent message saying that the Nairobi ministerial on African soil for the first time "must be successful, successful for Africa, and successful for development."

She wants WTO members to "reinvigorate the negotiating function."

The choice before 162 trade ministers, according to Ms. Mohamed, is either strengthen the negotiating function to break the "stasis" that has plagued the Doha negotiations or continue with the business as usual, with the weakened WTO.

"Either way," she said, the tenth ministerial conference (MC10) "would fundamentally change the organization after the ministerial."

Her statements at a press conference along with the WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo gave conflicting messages about the future of the Doha Round as well as the need to start discussing new issues.

She urged countries that have not embraced the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) to do it. The ratification of TFA, she said, must be followed by other countries that have not signed it till now.

She praised the proposed second generation Information Technology Agreement (ITA-II) and also the environmental goods negotiations.

She said all members have to be flexible, realistic, and engage in a give-and-take framework.

Ms. Mohamed called for "looking at the future", suggesting that members have to keep the negotiating function open for strengthening the trade body.

The WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo repeatedly made claims about the one trillion dollar deals concluded in the TFA and the ITA-II.

He said they open the path for strengthening the WTO, emphasizing that the Nairobi meeting is "a defining moment" for the trade body.

Asked to comment as to what would constitute successful outcomes at Nairobi, Ms Mohamed mentioned the proposed outcomes in agriculture, the LDC package, and improvements in the transparency provisions.

She said "if we have successful outcome we would have reinvigorated and renewed the organization, and with the work program of 2016 going beyond."

The Kenyan cabinet secretary said "if we didn't have an outcome - the negotiating function collectively is broken."

"Either members fix the broken negotiating function or live without it by focusing on dispute settlement and trade policy review body mechanism," she said. +