Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb16/04)
18 February 2016
Third World Network
Davos "euphoria" fails to click at WTO
Published in SUNS # 8182 dated 17 February 2016
Geneva, 16 Feb (D. Ravi Kanth) - The World Trade Organization (WTO)
Director-General Roberto Azevedo suffered a setback last week when
despite strenuous efforts, he failed to inject the "Davos euphoria"
into the WTO and carry it forward by beginning a discussion on the
remaining "DDA [Doha Development Agenda]" and "non-DDA
issues" based on the "artificially" constructed Ministerial
Declaration adopted at the tenth ministerial conference at Nairobi
over two months ago, several trade envoys told the SUNS.
A large majority of developing and least-developed country members
told Azevedo in no uncertain terms at the informal Heads of Delegation
(HOD) meeting he had convened on Wednesday (10 February) that the
Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD) lacked "credibility"
and "integrity" as it had excluded the participation of
"a vast majority" of countries in shaping its contents.
They also reminded the D-G that they will not allow any attempt made
to set aside the ongoing Doha Development Agenda negotiations because
of the manufactured consent for the NMD, trade envoys told the SUNS.
In his hurry to carry forward the instructions issued by the United
States, the European Union, Switzerland, Canada, and other developed
countries at an informal ministerial meeting in Davos last month (23
January), Azevedo told the trade envoys at the HOD meeting that members
should begin a discussion on two areas.
The major developed countries at Davos had called for beginning a
discussion on the so-called "new approaches" for discussing
the "remaining" Doha issues while also beginning the debate
on "non-Doha [new] issues."
Azevedo said there is no consensus to deal with the DDA issues but
all members reaffirmed commitment on the remaining Doha issues.
Around twenty trade ministers from major developed countries and some
developing countries, the chair for the Nairobi meeting, Kenya's Cabinet
Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ms. Amina Mohamed, and Azevedo had attended
the informal ministerial meeting hosted by the Swiss government on
the margins of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos to
discuss the work program for kick-starting work on new issues and
But the informal Davos meeting cannot become the basis for starting
work at the WTO when a large majority of members are not convinced
that what happened at Nairobi was credible, Azevedo was told at the
informal HOD at the WTO.
Several countries also pointed out that the Nairobi process lacked
integrity for making any fundamental departure from the Doha Development
Agenda negotiations, according to the trade envoys who spoke to the
Azevedo echoed the Davos euphoria in his first meeting with trade
envoys by telling them what they must look into in the NMD at this
juncture. The director-general said he had convened the HOD meeting
to carry forward the guidance ministers gave in Nairobi and quoted
paragraph 33 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration.
Paragraph 33 of the NMD stated: "Mindful of this situation and
given our common resolve to have this meeting in Nairobi, our first
Ministerial Conference in Africa, play a pivotal role in efforts to
preserve and further strengthen the negotiating function of the WTO,
we therefore agree that officials should work to find ways to advance
negotiations and request the Director-General to report regularly
to the General Council on these efforts."
After claiming success for the Nairobi decisions reached at the tenth
ministerial conference in Nairobi, Kenya, on December 19, Azevedo
told the informal HOD, it is "the second consecutive Ministerial
Conference where 'we' delivered important outcomes."
He conceded that the "process" adopted in Nairobi was far
from ideal, but pointed the finger at members for not completing the
work in Geneva and allowing "too much" to be negotiated
in Nairobi and on "too many open issues, even some without a
text." He said members cannot afford all the political calls
until the last moment.
But the moot issue is who took this "too much work" and
"too many open issues" from Geneva to Nairobi even when
he knew that there was no consensus on many of the issues prior to
the meeting, a trade envoy commented to the SUNS.
"It was Azevedo who asked the chairs (of various negotiating
groups) to bring all the issues to Nairobi, regardless of the differences
and lack of consensus," the envoy from a South American country
told the SUNS.
Now Azevedo cannot turn around and say that "whatever good has
happened in Nairobi is because of you [members] and whatever bad has
happened in Nairobi is also because of you all," the envoy said.
It's a classic case of shifting the responsibility when he was at
the centre of the process that was adopted hand-in- glove with the
chair of the Nairobi conference, Ms Amina Mohamed, the envoy pointed
"Isn't it shocking that in a meeting held in Africa for the first
time, there is not one country from that continent that was called
to the green room meeting in which the NMD was constructed as per
the wishes of the United States and the European Union," the
China and India should have insisted at the Nairobi meeting that South
Africa ought to be called to the green room even though it was a non-representative
group for an organization with 164 members, the envoy pointed out.
At Nairobi, there was no discussion on the crucial Part III concerning
the post-Nairobi work program, said another trade envoy. "We
were aghast that the language proposed by the US and South Africa
at a breakfast group meeting in late November, and which was opposed
vehemently at the green room meetings and did not fly, again found
its way into the NMD, particularly the paragraph 30," he said.
The paragraph 30 reads: "We recognize that many Members reaffirm
the Doha Development Agenda, and the Declarations and Decisions adopted
at Doha and at the Ministerial Conferences held since then, and reaffirm
their full commitment to conclude the DDA on that basis. Other Members
do not reaffirm the Doha mandates, as they believe new approaches
are necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes in multilateral negotiations.
Members have different views on how to address the negotiations. We
acknowledge the strong legal structure of this Organization."
It is this issue that is rankling the members who spoke emphatically
at the HOD against the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration, particularly
Part III, which was formulated by the US and the EU in close collaboration
with the chair of the conference and the director-general, said an
African trade envoy familiar with the Nairobi green room meeting.
Despite intense opposition from China to the language in paragraph
30, the US and the EU managed to insert their language, the envoy
Uganda's trade envoy Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr was justified
when he said at the HOD meeting that Part III of the NMD "was
managed in a very isolationist manner."
"It ought to be recalled that this was the most critical part
of the Declaration and yet the vast majority of the membership did
not participate in shaping its outcome," an agitated Ugandan
trade envoy told the director- general. "We were never consulted,"
said Ambassador Aparr, challenging the credibility of the Nairobi
Ambassador Aparr gave an educative lesson to Azevedo on the Treaty
of Westphalia of 1648 that "codified the principle of the sovereign
equality of states."
"This principle has been carried forward in all conventions and
treaties that form the bedrock of international relations," the
Ugandan envoy reminded the director-general. "We therefore reject
any artificial and isolationist tendencies not grounded in public
international law, engineered to deprive states of their inalienable
rights of representation," Ambassador Aparr told Azevedo.
Another trade envoy who compared Azevedo to Henry Kissinger (notorious
for his dirty tricks), said Azevedo had used similar tactics at Bali
and Nairobi meetings to get an outcome he wanted, but now seemed upset
with this rigorous lecturing by a trade envoy of Africa. The envoy
said the director-general seemed miffed that the developing countries
were placing hurdles in his attempt to carry forward the Davos euphoria.
Significantly, the developing countries poured cold water on the "Davos
euphoria", which the WTO's director- general Roberto Azevedo
attempted to promote by arguing that members must look carefully into
both old and new issues, said a trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
In their separate interventions at the HOD, many developing countries
laid stress on addressing the outstanding issues of the Doha Development
Agenda (DDA), as called for in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration.
"Our view is that we should start work immediately on the remaining
issues of the DDA towards its conclusion with development at the centre,"
Ambassador Aparr told the director-general.
The Ugandan assessment was shared by Zimbabwe, Lesotho (speaking for
the African Group), Tanzania, South Africa, Cuba, Bolivia, India,
and Indonesia among others, all of them issuing separate statements
at the HOD meeting to drive home a strong message that the Nairobi
package called for addressing the outstanding issues of the Doha Development
Agenda (DDA), particularly completing the work on the permanent solution
for public stockholding programs for food security purposes and the
special safeguard mechanism (SSM) for developing countries, trade
envoys told the SUNS.
The Nairobi package was finalized by the United States, the European
Union, China, India, and Brazil, along with the conference chair Ms
Amina Mohamed, Kenya's cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, and
the WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo at a marathon green room
meeting that lasted for more than 24 hours.
The package was presented as a take-it-or-leave-it outcome to the
rest of the membership which was kept in the dark till then, given
about 1-1/2 hours to read and digest the NMD and its decisions, and
agree or disagree, without much time to consult their capitals.
As a result of the usual WTO tactics of extending sessions at the
last moment of the scheduled concluding day, several ministers and
senior officials of delegations had left Nairobi, making the task
of representatives of delegations left behind very difficult.
Meanwhile, with US trade agreements gaining prominence in the US presidential
election campaign, and candidates belonging to both Republican and
Democratic parties publicly taking hostile postures in party primaries
under way, the Obama administration is considered as unlikely to do
anything that may complicate the prospects for Democrats, according
to some civil society groups and observers of the US political scene.
In short, the next 12 months are going to be spent at the WTO in efforts
at interpreting the NMD and marking time. It would also test the resolve
of developing countries whether they would allow "new approaches"
for watering down the special and differential treatment flexibilities,
said a trade envoy who was present at the meeting.