Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb16/02)
16 February 2016
Third World Network
Address DDA issues, development and SDT are key, say South
Published in SUNS #8179 dated 12 February 2016
Geneva, 11 Feb (Kanaga Raja) -- The first meeting of all members of
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to discuss the work going forward
following the adoption of the ‘Nairobi package' at MC10 last December
heard a number of developing countries calling for the remaining Doha
Development Agenda (DDA) issues to be addressed as a priority and
that the development dimension and special and differential treatment
(SDT) are key in moving forward.
In their various interventions highlighting their priorities for the
post-Nairobi work at an informal heads of delegation (HOD) meeting
on Wednesday (10 February), developing countries also said that the
flexibilities that have been inscribed in the texts over the past
14 years must be preserved.
Some developing countries also voiced disappointment with the negotiating
process in Nairobi, saying that having five countries making decisions
and the membership being presented (with less than 1-1/2 hours to
digest the draft and decide) at the end (of an extended meeting) with
a more or less take-it-or-leave-it text was not something that was
They called for a more effective, accountable, transparent and inclusive
process in Geneva. Some also called for a period of reflection.
According to trade officials, in his remarks at the informal HOD meeting,
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said that success in Nairobi
makes it two ministerials in a row. He cited Para 33 of the Nairobi
Ministerial Declaration which says that members should work to advance
the negotiations and for him to report to the General Council on these
Nairobi is a success but we need to improve the way that we work in
Geneva, he added.
He acknowledged that there was too much left undone when members left
for Nairobi with too many open issues. This was something that led
to a process in Nairobi which was not ideal, or even close to ideal.
We have tried very hard to have a process that was transparent and
inclusive and this was not as transparent and inclusive as people
would have liked. It resulted in something that was either that or
nothing, he added.
He said that we can't keep betting on ministers pulling rabbits out
of the hat, adding that we are running out of rabbits.
He further said that there is need to be in a much more advanced position
for MC11 (to be held in 2017) and there is need to work and make sure
that this is the case. One of the ways would be to get Ambassadors
to be prepared to leave their comfort zones and to work more closely
with their capitals and that the political engagement by Ministers
throughout the process is something that should be regularised.
The D-G then went through Parts I and II of the Nairobi Ministerial
Declaration, and mentioned in particular pursuing negotiations on
the SSM (Special Safeguard Mechanism) and to accelerate, in an accelerated
time-frame, finding a permanent solution on public stockholding for
food security purposes, as well as to continue work on the dedicated
discussions on cotton.
All these three actions demand our attention, he told the members.
In Part III of the Declaration, he said, there was no agreement on
the major elements of it. But it highlighted the importance of the
remaining Doha issues and also introducing the possibility of non-DDA
issues. There is no consensus on how to address the DDA and likewise
members do not have consensus as yet on what to do with the non-DDA
He has spoken to the negotiating group chairs and has requested them
to begin discussions.
It is very important that members begin to have a conversation about
all of these things. If we want to move forward, now more than ever,
this must be a member-driven process, he said.
"I think members need to acknowledge their differences. The fact
is that members don't see eye-to-eye on some issues - and this is
not likely to change in the short term. Faced with this situation,
the worst thing we could do would be to allow these differences to
seize-up WTO negotiations - and push activity towards other forums.
We can't allow multilateral cooperation to suffer, especially at a
time when the world needs our contribution to help improve people's
lives and prospects around the world - particularly for the poorest,"
Azevedo was also quoted as saying in a news item posted on the WTO
"In my view, we need to accept the reality of the situation.
We need to figure out how to work together - despite members' different
perspectives - for the benefit of all. We need to figure out how we
can keep delivering for jobs, growth and development - to make as
full a contribution as we can."
MEMBERS VOICE THEIR VIEWS ON POST-NAIROBI WORK
According to trade officials, Switzerland gave a report on the ministerial
meeting held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos
earlier in January.
Kenya said that the outcome in Nairobi was a historic one. The effective
implementation of the MC10 decisions will make a very important contribution
to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is now important to get back to the Doha Development Agenda (DDA)
issues as soon as possible, and that the momentum generated from the
Nairobi process must not be lost.
Zimbabwe voiced disappointment about the negotiating process, with
too much being left to the last minute. This created an atmosphere
that was difficult as many developing countries could not participate
in the final process and they were presented with a take-it-or-leave-it
text. While the need to have consultations in different formats is
obvious in an organisation with 162 members, there needs to be a much
more accountable, transparent and inclusive process.
On going forward, Zimbabwe said it is very appreciative of the outcomes
that came out of Nairobi, such as the decisions on export competition
and those pertaining to the LDCs. It was glad as well that there was
special notice of SSM and public stockholding. But we now need to
focus on getting those issues resolved as well as issues related to
the development dimension and on domestic support in agriculture.
While it is open to negotiations on these issues in different ways,
it is very important that the principles of development are central,
Bolivia, in thanking Kenya, said that a great deal of effort was made
to bring about a result in Nairobi. But having five countries making
decisions was not something that is acceptable and the Geneva process
needs to be much more effective so that we are not put in a position
like this again.
It is very important that issues pertaining to the DDA receive priority
and it is not acceptable to consider issues that might in some way
limit the policy space. No new issues should be considered until the
DDA is concluded, said Bolivia.
Guatemala, on behalf of the Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs),
said that it is still assessing the Nairobi outcome. For the SVEs,
domestic support and market access in agriculture, services, non-agricultural
market access (NAMA) and rules are important.
It wants the negotiating groups to take up work promptly. There must
be a transparent, inclusive and bottom-up member-driven process, with
development at the centre. It is also important that the flexibilities
that had been written into some of the earlier negotiating texts for
the SVEs be preserved.
Lesotho, on behalf of the African Group, said that the elements of
the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration are not all clear and there is
need for some time to reflect. Any attempt to run this process on
over-drive would not be productive. There is need for time for reflection.
The industrial countries need to recognise that they have had a big
say in setting the agenda that has been before the WTO over the last
20 years, so it is not acceptable for them to not engage on the issues
that are out there, said Lesotho.
It also underlined that the flexibilities that have been written into
some of the texts as they pertain to African countries and the key
principles must not be ignored. The objective of development that
has been written into the Ministerial Declaration must be retained.
South Africa voiced agreement with Lesotho, saying it was very glad
to see the outcomes on export competition and LDCs. These are very
important. It would still like to see much more done in the other
areas including in areas where agreement was not reached such as Special
and Differential Treatment (SDT), fisheries subsidies and the idea
of getting some affirmation of the DDA.
On new approaches, South Africa said that it would be a challenge
to move forward multilaterally. But one thing we should definitely
do is to implement the disciplines that were agreed in export competition.
On the issue of public stockholding, it said that there is much work
that needs to be done because it has been agreed that this is done
in an accelerated manner and that is the mandate that the membership
should stick to.
SSM should be taken up in the context of all outstanding issues in
agriculture as highlighted in the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.
Issues pertaining to NAMA, TRIPS and rules are also important.
There is need for a period of careful reflection, it said, adding
that the negotiations need to focus on relevant policies. Existing
mandates are known and are supported by many and Members should build
on what has been done.
New approaches have not yet been defined, South Africa said, adding
that there needs to be proposals from the proponents of any new approach
that comes forward.
It is difficult to assume that we can count on an early harvest on
other issues. We could do that with Trade Facilitation and export
competition, but these had specific characteristics and it is not
immediately evident that there are other issues that would fall into
this particular paradigm.
On new issues, South Africa said that it is too early for it to make
a decision on, focussing on issues other than the DDA. Those who have
some ideas should come forward with some proposals and there should
be a discussion.
Tanzania agreed with the D-G that there is need to improve on the
Geneva process. There should be a systematic effort made to avoid
having final decisions taken in a manner that is not inclusive. This
needs to be changed.
On future work on the DDA, it said that there is need for many exchanges
on these issues to determine what is the best way forward.
Pakistan said that Nairobi has proved the sceptics wrong, and that
it was an example of the success of the multilateral trading system.
There is need to maintain this momentum. There is also need for speedy
implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the Nairobi
On the way forward, Pakistan said the DDA and non-DDA issues fall
into the same stream, and the membership has a great responsibility
to ensure the centrality of the WTO.
It said 90% of Pakistan's exports are through micro- and small- or
medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). It looked forward to having a focused
discussion on how the issues of importance to MSMEs can be mainstreamed
into the work of the WTO.
Bangladesh, on behalf of the LDCs, said that the Nairobi Ministerial
Conference was a step in the right direction. The biggest challenge
now is to try and determine the best way forward. It is very important
that a way is found and implementing the decisions taken there will
be of great importance.
It liked the way in which the DDA architecture dating back to 2001
was structured, and wanted to see the issues of NAMA, rules and domestic
support in agriculture on the table, but it understands that there
is no clarity in terms of how the membership can go forward. Equally,
there is no clarity on the new issues. It wants to see all the flexibilities
that have been attained over the course of 14 years preserved in whatever
system that goes forward.
Uganda said that while there were some important gains in Nairobi,
there was a great deal of disappointment with the process. We have
always been proud of having a process that was member-driven, transparent
and inclusive. But that did not happen in Nairobi, it added.
This is something that needs to be addressed in the future. In the
future, texts or documents should not be sent to Ministers that are
only partially completed.
On substance, Uganda would like the focus to be on the DDA issues
with the development dimension at the centre. It is concerned about
any issues that might distract from those issues being introduced
on the agenda. Before we take up new issues, we need to see that the
DDA is concluded.
It said that it is very important that we build on paragraphs 5 and
24 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration which calls for the strengthening
of the multilateral trading system.
Benin voiced agreement with the African Group and LDC group statements,
saying that there was a benefit in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration
but there is need to reflect carefully on the way forward.
On cotton, it said that while it welcomed some of the results obtained
on this issue, more needs to be done. SDT was something on which the
members did not agree and this must be taken up. The same goes for
the issue of fisheries subsidies. We need to reflect on the new issues
just as we need to do on the other approaches.
Cuba said that five countries working on the text in Nairobi was not
acceptable. This needs to be done in a way that is transparent, and
inclusive. There is need for a period of reflection and the outcome
at MC10 was not a balanced outcome in terms of the way forward with
respect to Doha.
The same was also true at Bali (MC9 in 2013) as well, and the DDA
has not delivered all that the developing countries want. It is prepared
to work with others in terms of how to advance these issues. It did
not want the Doha structure built over the course of a decade to be
Rwanda congratulated Kenya and the DG, saying that the leadership
shown at Nairobi was extremely important to the outcome there. It
considers that the Nairobi deliverables were very important for developing
countries, and we need to build on these as quickly as we can.
It is important that the process in Geneva works better than it has.
Before we go to MC11 from Geneva we should have a decision that is
agreed, or almost agreed, it said.
The Russian Federation said that it does not have any complaint about
how things were done in Nairobi. It understood the enormous difficulties
that the DG and Amina Mohamed, Chair of the Conference, faced. Bali
and Nairobi proved that deals can be made. There is need to build
now on those outcomes.
Brazil said that the WTO's negotiating function is of paramount importance.
It does not deny that there are other modes of negotiating outside
the WTO that bring about trade liberalization and investment. But
they cannot replace the multilateral trading system especially when
it comes to agriculture.
For Brazil, what is very important about these agreements is that
they be about trade creation and not trade diversion. This is why
it wants very much to have a structured discussion in the WTO about
trade agreements like this, whether they are coherent with the multilateral
The multilateral system has brought about useful results both at Bali
and Nairobi. We will need to work on these to build on the two successful
Brazil wants to see a very strong commitment to address the remaining
DDA issues as was highlighted in the Ministerial Declaration, as well
as a substance-driven and bottom-up approach. We should begin to look
for deliverables for MC11.
On new issues, Brazil said it was something that "we should collectively
consider", and there is need to make sure that any consideration
of these issues whatever the manner in which it takes place should
not adversely affect the DDA issues.
For Brazil, agricultural market access and domestic support are very
important. These should be taken up, as should SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary
measures) and TBT (technical barriers to trade) issues. They should
be dealt with multilaterally.
Argentina said that it was pleased with the export competition outcome
at Nairobi, adding that this is very important. It was also very glad
to see that the importance of the DDA issues were stressed and agreed
to by all members.
On the way forward, it highlighted the centrality of the development
dimension and SDT, adding that these are key in terms of going forward.
Referring to Para 34 of the Nairobi Declaration pertaining to the
ongoing Doha issues, it said that as long as the issues of domestic
support, agricultural market access, and fisheries subsidies are taken
up and used as a means of helping to achieve the SDGs, then under
these conditions, different approaches to the DDA are things that
Argentina would be happy to discuss.
It is not clear what is the best way to address the DDA issues but
these principles need to be taken into account. "We need to be
creative and pragmatic when we consider new approaches," it said.
The US thanked Kenya, saying that there was a significant outcome
in Nairobi. It pointed to two areas of substantive deliverables -
on LDCs and export competition.
What was equally significant was that Nairobi had achieved a big opportunity
for all of the members to engage in a new and more constructive conversation,
whether we are talking about old issues or so-called new issues.
The US said that what is important is not whether they are old or
new issues but that we have a new way of discussing them that creates
opportunity rather than the old way that produced failure.
There is a lack of clarity on the way forward and it is disquieting
for people when you don't have familiar fixed posts along the route
but that this uncertainty and dealing with that is part of the process.
It prefers a process that lacks clarity but offers promise, to one
that has more clarity but promises failure.
India said Nairobi was an important milestone where the negotiating
arm delivered to some extent on some longstanding issues like export
On the issue of public stockholding, India said it is important to
highlight that the Ministers in Nairobi reaffirmed the General Council
Decision of 27 November 2014 and decided that members shall engage
constructively to negotiate and make all concerted efforts to agree
and adopt a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding
for food security purposes in dedicated sessions and an accelerated
time-frame in the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session (CoA-SS).
Similarly, Ministers decided to pursue negotiations on an SSM for
developing country Members in dedicated sessions of the CoA-SS.
India said it looked forward to active constructive engagement on
both these mandates in 2016.
On the way forward post-Nairobi, from India's perspective, the intent
and purport of many of the paragraphs in the Ministerial Declaration
are not entirely clear. This would require more intensive reflection,
thought and discussion by all Members.
It noted that an overwhelming majority of Members have reaffirmed
their commitment to the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). "As we
move forward, we must resolve to successfully conclude the negotiations
under the framework of the DDA."
It emphasised that moving to new issues without resolving satisfactorily
outstanding mandates will not be acceptable. Being constructive and
flexible does not imply that we rush into narratives that are not
entirely clear to many of us nor are their implications for our economies
and people, while issues that have been on the agenda for years, remain
It noted that Para 33 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration mandates
that "officials" should work to find ways to advance negotiations.
In India's view, these efforts have to be essentially driven by the
collective membership of the WTO in a bottom -up approach. In other
words, it has to be Member-driven. Members need to bring forth proposals
to advance negotiations.
In addition, India agreed with the views expressed by a number of
Members who spoke before it that "we need to introspect and reflect
on the process", both leading up to a Ministerial as well as
during the Ministerial as well. This would be in the interest of preserving
the credibility of the negotiating arm of the Organisation.
India underlined that while members must immediately engage on the
mandate that the Ministers in Nairobi have given them in terms of
the specific deliverables, "we must also seriously reflect, introspect
and discuss the way forward in a manner that is of benefit to the
larger membership as a whole keeping development at the core".
It is clear that not only the DDA but para 32 of the Nairobi Ministerial
Declaration also reiterates that our future agenda shall maintain
development at its centre. This period of reflection must address
how the WTO can be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of
developing countries, particularly the LDCs, said India.
The European Union said that it is ready and willing to work for more
meaningful outcomes. It is important to implement the Nairobi outcomes
and that we follow up on the transparency and enforceability of key
elements. In addition, there is need to look at the outstanding DDA
issues and to find the best way of dealing with these questions.
A multilateral environment is a way where we can find solutions and
the TFA and export competition are two decisions that are illustrative
of this, it said.
Now, "we need to look at other issues including other agriculture
issues and see if there is a way that we can move forward on these
as well. The SSM and public stockholding issues need to be taken up
There also needs to be flexibility and new approaches on many of the
other issues provided that some key principles are retained including
SDT. There is need to reflect as well on how we bring the other issues
of interest to members, where multilateral rules are needed, it said.
We need to take time to identify these issues and to scope them. We
need to consider the best way of putting these issues into a multilateral
setting, that there is enough flexibility in the WTO machinery to
come up with a multilateral agreement on something which is new, that
would apply to everyone. But if we have a situation in which this
is not something all members wish to take on board, there is flexibility
in the WTO that would enable some members to go ahead first, the EU
We have a moment of opportunity now and it is very important that
we build on this and we should begin to identify the ways in which
we can move forward and that we need to look at these issues constructively
and creatively and not get bogged down on sterile political or metaphysical
discussion, it added.
Uruguay said that Nairobi was a very important outcome for the WTO
and for the country.
The agreement eliminating all forms of trade-distorting export competition
was something that Uruguay had sought for thirty years. But there
are still many areas in agriculture that need to be addressed. Agriculture
tariffs are much higher than those for industrial goods and this is
something that needs to be focused on.
Japan said that after Nairobi, we are in a new stage for multilateral
trade negotiations. It is open to any ways of considering issues,
be they old or new. It is keen to see an approach that is pragmatic,
creative, transparent and inclusive, and that we should not repeat
the same old statements that we have heard - those that lead us nowhere.
This is not the way to advance negotiations in the WTO.
Indonesia said that 2016 is a window of opportunity and there is need
to go about the work in a constructive manner. There are those who
would like to take up new issues but there are others as well who
believe that we need to put our focus on the existing Doha issues.
As far as Indonesia is concerned, agriculture is still of crucial
importance for them. If we are to consider new issues, it should be
done carefully, and it should be taken up in the General Council so
that there is a transparent approach for all to discuss.
Mexico said that the outcomes were very important but not everything
that we needed. It is very keen to get much more out of these Doha
issues and is prepared to talk about new issues as well. We need to
move forward in a manner that is constructive, transparent and inclusive.