Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jan16/01)
29 January 2016
Third World Network
US, EU begin their campaign for new issues at WTO
Published in SUNS #8166 dated 26 January 2016
Geneva, 25 Jan (D. Ravi Kanth) -- With the ink hardly dry on the month-old
Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD), the United States, China, the
European Union, Australia, Canada, and other major developed countries
on Saturday (23 January) have begun their campaign at Davos for pursuing
"new issues" at the World Trade Organization (WTO), several
participants told the SUNS.
[The NMD, in its operative Para 34, has said without ambiguity: "While
we concur that officials should prioritize work where results have
not yet been achieved, some wish to identify and discuss other issues
for negotiation; others do not. Any decision to launch negotiations
multilaterally on such issues would need to be agreed by all Members."
The new issues proposed by China, the European Union, Canada, Korea,
and Thailand among others include digital trade, investment, small
and medium enterprises, and domestic farm subsidies. Brazil is reported
to have said it is ready to "examine any new issue" that
is mature for multilateral commitments.
Without mentioning the Doha issues, the US maintained that there is
a fair degree of consensus for adopting "new approaches"
to address the "outstanding" issues.
The US stance to do away with the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) architecture
based on special and differential treatment flexibilities and less-than-full-reciprocity
(LTFR) commitments in market access for agriculture and industrial
goods to address the remaining "Doha" issues is also shared
by the EU and other major developed countries.
China proposed a "solidarity work program" in which it called
for examining new issues such as e-commerce and investment while simultaneously
carrying out work on market access for agricultural products, industrial
goods, and services based on the Doha framework.
The European Union called for pursuing new issues such as digital
trade, investment, and domestic farm subsidies.
Several other countries at the meeting such as Korea and Thailand
called for including small and medium enterprises in the new issues.
During a closed-door informal ministerial meeting convened by Switzerland
on the margins of the annual World Economic Forum event in Davos,
the major industrialized countries, especially the US and the EU,
began preparing the ground for "new issues" and "new
approaches" on the presumption that the DDA negotiations are
dead, said a trade minister from a developing country.
The informal meeting was convened by Switzerland to chalk out the
immediate priorities and what needs to be done for the WTO's eleventh
ministerial meeting next year.
Participants at the meeting included the United States, the European
Union, Hong Kong-China, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Kenya, Argentina,
Australia, Canada, Lesotho, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, and
India was not present at the meeting.
The WTO's director-general Roberto Azevedo claimed that the Nairobi
ministerial meeting is a "big success", arguing that it
builds on the outcomes reached at the Bali ministerial meeting in
Azevedo said members must pursue the remaining DDA issues but must
be open to talk about new issues without prejudice to the outcome.
Azevedo said members must start with a conversation and remain open
to ideas of flexibility and inclusiveness.
The director-general called for greater private sector engagement
in the conversations on new issues at the WTO, according to participants
present at the meeting.
During the half-day Davos meeting, Kenya's permanent secretary for
foreign affairs Amina Mohamed, who chaired the Nairobi ministerial
meeting, said "success begets success."
She said members must now broaden the conversation to include the
private sector. She said she was "tired of alarmist rhetoric
of trade vs. GDP," but did not mention how to address the remaining
issues of the DDA during the meeting, according to a participant who
asked not to be quoted.
The EU's trade commissioner Ms Cecilia Malmstrom said the Nairobi
ministerial meeting provided "happiness" as it is an "important"
Malmstrom said members must now move forward and focus "on issues
of value added to WTO such as trade facilitation and export competition."
She called for "new approaches in a flexible and inclusive way"
as well as "new issues" such as "electronic- commerce,
digital trade, investment, and subsidies."
Mexico's economy secretary Iidefonso Guajardo Villareal called for
a review of the Single Undertaking on which the Doha Development Agenda
(DDA) negotiations is based.
"The reality is that in past three ministerials, the Single Undertaking
has been put aside," the Mexican economy secretary said.
"Consensus has been the leading factor and Single Undertaking
should be reviewed," the Mexican economy secretary maintained.
The WTO must discuss internet services and manufacturing if it has
to remain relevant to current developments.
"New ideas should come with proposals and framework," Villareal
Russia sought to know whether members should continue with the Doha
Round or adopt new approaches.
Indonesia said "heads of state must be involved as much as possible."
The Indonesian minister Thomas Lembong said "Bali success was
due to Obama who spoke to Indian PM Manmohan Singh."
Thailand called for "new issues such as e-commerce, SMEs, competition,
Turkey said it will closely follow the progress on special safeguard
mechanism for developing countries. Ankara urged progress in all Doha
South Africa's trade minister Rob Davies reminded ministers that there
are still significant divergences among members on the continuation
of the DDA and new issues. Davies said the majority of members "wanted
reaffirmation of DDA while others did not."
"Some wanted new issues and some members opposed," Davies
argued. New issues, said Davies, are not yet ripe for negotiations.
However, South Africa would not shy away from conversation, Davies
Korea called for discussing new issues such as "e-commerce, small
and medium enterprises (SMEs), global value chains (GVCs), and regulatory
coherence on exploratory basis."
Lesotho, which is the coordinator for the African Group, said members
must discuss concerns of those who seek to depart from the Doha mandate.
Lesotho pressed for "flexibilities of least-developed countries
and developing countries based on the architecture of WTO Agreements."
China said members must pursue a "solidarity work program"
to overcome divergences at the World Trade Organization.
The solidarity work program includes issues which are "very relevant
new issues such as e-commerce and investment" while continuing
work on the outstanding areas of agriculture, industrial goods, and
services based on the Doha framework.
China's vice-minister for trade Mr Shouwen Wang said the solidarity
work program would include two sets of issues.
He said the first set of issues will cover agriculture, market access
for industrial goods, and services as well as the remaining issues
based on the multilateral approaches in line with the Doha framework.
The second set of issues, said Mr Wang, cover "issues that are
very relevant," particularly new issues such as electronic-commerce
and investment with a multilateral approach. The solidarity work program
will have a definite timeframe, the Chinese vice-minister said.
The US trade representative Ambassador Michael Froman cautioned against
rushing prematurely into "work plans and deadlines."
The USTR said issues must develop organically and members must focus
on revitalizing the WTO. Ambassador Froman said Members must not pursue
rhetorical initiatives and instead, focus on "pragmatic initiatives"
based on consultations with diverse groups of the private sector.
Canada's new international trade minister Ms Chrystia Freeland, however,
said that for all the successes of Nairobi, members didn't live up
to the full hopes of the Doha Round. She said it is time to do something
on the Doha Round with fresh approaches.
In short, the US, the EU, and other developed countries along with
their developing country allies are now preparing the ground for new
issues and issue-based outcomes in the market access.
The stage is set for making a rupture with the DDA negotiations once
and for all, said a developing country participant after the meeting.