TWN 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 acceptable.

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 efforts.

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 issues.

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 website.

"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."


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, said Zimbabwe.

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 outcomes.

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 totally dismantled.

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 trading system.

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 ministerial conferences.

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 subsidies.

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 unresolved.

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 with priority."

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 maintained.

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. +