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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar16/02)
1 March 2016
Third World Network


New Chairs approved, development, SDT stressed at GC meet
Published in SUNS #8189 dated 26 February 2016

Geneva, 25 Feb (Kanaga Raja) - The WTO General Council, at its meeting on Wednesday (24 February), has approved a new slate of chairs of its various bodies for 2016, with Ambassador Harald Neple of Norway becoming the new Chair of the General Council.

Under a separate agenda item of report by the Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), a number of developing countries again stressed on the importance of the development dimension and special and differential treatment (SDT) in the work going forward post-Nairobi.

They also expressed dismay over the negotiating process in Nairobi where a small group of countries was involved in the decision-making over the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD), which was presented to members at the end of the extending meeting on a virtually take-it-or-leave-it basis.

The developing countries called for a more transparent and inclusive process going forward.

[At an informal Heads of Delegation (HOD) meeting on 10 February, several developing countries called for the remaining Doha Development Agenda (DDA) issues to be addressed as a priority and that the development dimension and SDT are key in moving forward. They also expressed disappointment over the negotiating process in Nairobi. (See SUNS #8179 dated 12 February 2016.]

REPORT BY THE CHAIR OF THE TNC

In his report as Chair of the TNC, Director-General Roberto Azevedo, referring to the informal HOD meeting of 10 February, reiterated that "Nairobi showed that we need to improve the way we work in Geneva. Despite the fact that we succeeded in delivering some important outcomes at the 10th Ministerial Conference, there's no doubt that there are lessons to be learned."

"Too much was left to negotiate in Nairobi itself. In future, by the time we make the transition from the Geneva process to the Ministerial Conference, we should aim to be in a much more advanced position," he maintained.

To deliver that, he suggested two elements: First, we need to be in closer contact with capitals, to obtain more regular, substantive and updated political instructions; Second, we need to engage ministers more throughout the process - not just at the end.

On the substantive outcomes of the Ministerial Conference, he said that some of the decisions taken under the DDA specify a number of follow-up actions - including: to "pursue negotiations" on an SSM; to negotiate, "in an accelerated time-frame", to find a permanent solution on Public Stockholding; and to continue holding dedicated discussions on Cotton.

"All of these follow-up actions now demand our attention," he said.

On Part III of the NMD on future work, Azevedo stressed that "each and every word of the declaration is important. I am not attributing more prominence to one thing over another. But there are two areas which we will need to look into, and which are particularly notable precisely because there is no common view on them. One is the remaining DDA issues. Another is non-DDA issues."

According to the DG, there is no consensus about how to address the DDA. Nonetheless, in Nairobi, all members gave a "strong commitment" to advancing negotiations on the remaining Doha issues.

"It is important to underline this point, even though members do not currently have a shared view on how it should be achieved," he said, adding that he has requested that the Negotiating Group chairs begin discussions within their respective groups.

On the non-DDA issues, Azevedo said again members were not of a common view. But it was clear that some want to discuss issues outside the DDA. It is not clear yet how that conversation would take place, but there is a clear understanding that if there's a desire to launch multilateral negotiations that would have to happen with the agreement of all members.

"Progress in these areas must be member-driven. I urge members to talk to each other. That's the only way we can begin to advance."

Referring to the HOD meeting, Azevedo said that many shared his concerns with the process in Nairobi. They agreed that the process at Ministerial Conferences needs to be more predictable and transparent.

The responsibility lay with each member. Members also agreed that the preparatory process in Geneva needed to bring agreed or close-to-finished outcomes to ministers for decision, with very few issues left open, if any.

"Different perspectives and views were expressed on the way forward. Some called for us to sustain the momentum from Nairobi and resume work in negotiating groups as soon as possible. Others called for a frank discussion on the key elements of the declaration to attain clarity, or even a period of reflection to build a shared view on how to move ahead."

Some delegations also reiterated their well-known positions on the DDA mandate and non-DDA issues, he added.

Several references were made to the centrality of the development dimension and that special and differential treatment should remain an integral part of future negotiations, and a number of groups also reiterated the need to preserve their envisaged flexibilities.

"What was clear by the end of the meeting is that there is still a lack of clarity among members with regard to how the process should evolve. Therefore, I think members will need to deepen their dialogue with each other about how to advance their work," said the DG.

"It is important that we have a rich conversation over the coming months - and that we hear the views of all. I encourage you to talk to each other and to share your views about our next steps in light of the outcomes from Nairobi," he added.

VIEWS OF MEMBERS

A number of countries that did not speak at the informal HOD meeting on 10 February made their statements at this General Council meeting.

A few that spoke at the HOD meeting also spoke at this meeting, while the statements of those that spoke at the HOD meeting but did not speak at this General Council meeting were added into the record.

According to trade officials, Peru said that the Nairobi outcome was a successful one but there are lessons to be learned. Members cannot expect that they are going to be able to produce outcomes at the last minute. There should be no restrictions set in advance on the levels of ambition and a sequential approach should not be used when taking up topics.

It said that all issues should be looked at on their merits. There is need for a process that would involve much more conversation along text-based lines. This is the only way for a transparent and inclusive process to take place. It is very important to implement the Bali and Nairobi commitments. The NMD has given members a challenge in terms of the work programme, and there is need to look at a full range of issues.

Peru said it would like to see discussions continue on fisheries subsidies and anti-dumping, and that it is open-minded on new issues. It also stressed on a multilateral approach.

Also, Peru said, it is very important that the process be carried forward in a more transparent and inclusive way. It also highlighted the importance of carrying forward the issues of Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) and the development dimension.

Fiji, on behalf of the Pacific Group, said that while there were some good outcomes on LDC issues - the services waiver and rules of origin - export competition was also important. For the Pacific Group, it is critically important that an open and equitable multilateral trading system is maintained, one that will allow countries of the region a voice at the table but also to increase trade and address their development concerns.

Chile said that Nairobi has proved that the WTO can respond to the demands made of it on the multilateral agenda. For MC11 (in 2017), there is need for prompt implementation of the NMD. There is need for work in other areas as well such as domestic support and market access in agriculture - where not much progress has been made - and in other areas where there has been even less progress such as NAMA and services, it said.

Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Arab Group, praised the outcomes at Nairobi particularly on the LDC issues and cotton, as well as on export competition, but said that significant issues remain to be addressed. It is very important for the Arab Group that the development dimension and SDT provisions are retained, and work in a more transparent and inclusive manner before MC11 and do so in a cooperative manner, it said.

China said that there was no question that success at Nairobi was undeniable. But this does not mean that the workings of the WTO have to be re-written or that the priorities of members have changed.

It said that the areas of NAMA and services deserve special attention. On new approaches, it said that it is unclear what those approaches will be. While it is open to new issues, it is important to recognise that compared to the DDA issues, more progress is needed to make these new issues more mature, and to make them more consensual.

The NMD provides guidance for future work but the way in which this guidance is laid out is a bit fragmentary, said China, adding that the issues would not be dealt with in the most cohesive way. It proposed a โ˜solidarity work programme' where members could address the Doha issues according to the Doha mandates and then with respect to other issues, those that are important to business especially e-commerce and investment could be taken up as well. If we are going to negotiate them, it needs to be done by consensus.

China is not looking for new modalities for the work programme. It wants things done in a coordinated and dedicated fashion. It also wants things done in a direct and balanced way with solidarity. It also stressed on the importance of the faithful and timely implementation of the Bali and Nairobi work programmes.

Nigeria said that there is need for a more transparent and inclusive process that would make it easier for everyone to come away from the Ministerial meetings with a more positive approach. This being said, there is need to build very quickly on the Nairobi outcome.

We need to have more engagement by Ambassadors and Ministers, and there is need to make sure that the Negotiating Group process is done in a multilateral way and that it is transparent and inclusive. The Bali and Nairobi outcomes also need to be implemented, it said, highlighting the issues of domestic support, fisheries subsidies, SSM, and cotton. The Trade Facilitation Agreement needs to be ratified, which is a priority for Nigeria.

The DDA was agreed by consensus and it can only be ended by consensus, said Nigeria, and agriculture is a gateway issue and the engine for the entire negotiations.

Chinese Taipei, on behalf of the Article XII group (formerly known as the Recently Acceded Members), referred to the NMD which says that Article XII countries' interests need to be taken into account. There should be strict limits on the period of reflection. There is also need for a transparent and inclusive process.

Venezuela said it had concerns about MC10. Things were happening in a transparent way in Geneva, but when members got to Nairobi, that did not continue. There were some delegations that did not want to agree in Geneva because they felt they could influence the outcome in a small group in Nairobi, it charged.

Laos, on behalf of ASEAN, said that trade is the lifeblood of the ASEAN countries, and that the multilateral trading system is essential for ASEAN. All of ASEAN's integration efforts have been built on WTO commitments. It is important to implement the NMD and there is need now as a membership to come together because a house divided cannot stand.

Ecuador expressed dismay at the lack of transparency at MC10, saying that it was a stark contrast to the โ˜Room W' (a large room at the WTO for meetings of the full membership) process at the WTO. If we are going to have a ministerial declaration, it needs to be something that everybody has been working on. Transparency and inclusiveness were absent in Nairobi. Only a small group were involved in decision-making, it said.

It does not understand why there is criticism of the Doha agenda. In any event, there have been mandates for these negotiations, and that no one has actually been adhering to the mandates, it said. It wants SDT and the development dimension in order to ensure a development outcome from these negotiations.

Turkey said while Nairobi was a success, the expectations ahead of the ministerial conference were so low that the outcome was perhaps seen as even greater than it was. Transparency and inclusiveness are key.

Nepal said implementing the Bali and Nairobi outcomes are crucial. It stressed on the development dimension, SDT and a more transparent and inclusive process.

Indonesia, on behalf of the G33, stressed the importance of implementing the Nairobi outcomes. We face formidable challenges going forward in trying to reach agreement before MC11. It welcomed the provisions in the Nairobi outcome on public stockholding and the SSM. It however expressed concern that there has been no agreement reached here. Developing countries need to have recourse to the SSM, it said.

It expressed happiness over the accelerated negotiations mandated on public stockholding. It is also keen to see the ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. It also wants to see the issue of Special Products for developing countries taken up when the market access negotiations in agriculture resume.

Korea supported the G33 statement. We should not let the period of reflection become a period of inactivity and prolonged uncertainty. The remaining Doha issues need to be addressed. Simply giving general statements is not helpful. There is also need for an enhanced role for the negotiating groups. There should be no sequencing of issues. The WTO needs to address the non-Doha issues and they need to be able to respond to the global trading environment, it said.

Paraguay said that implementation of the Bali and Nairobi outcomes are essential. We need to start looking at issues like global value chains and e-commerce and how they may be able to help developing countries. These are priorities for land-locked developing countries.

Morocco, on behalf of the African Group, said that the credibility of the WTO needs to be maintained, and it has been elevated by the outcome in Nairobi.

For the African Group, there are three important areas that need to be addressed more completely - Trade Facilitation, agriculture and development. Progress has been made, but more needs to be done to build on the work. It stressed on the need for SDT. There is also need to get deeper into the issues of agriculture, services and NAMA.

Cameroon supported the African Group statement. It also stressed on SDT. While the Nairobi outcome was positive in some respects, in a number of important areas we did not produce results that were sufficient. This includes the issue of industrialisation which is very important for Cameroon.

Benin, on behalf of the LDCs, supported the G33 and African Group statements. It welcomed the services waiver for LDCs and rules of origin in the Nairobi outcome. It would like to see more on cotton, Duty-Free Quota-Free market access for LDC products, and on reducing trade-distorting domestic support. It would also like to see agreements on fisheries subsidies and intellectual property.

Zimbabwe supported the African Group and the G33. We need to get legal clarity on export competition, and this would be an important part of the implementation of the Nairobi outcome. There is need for agreements as well on SSM, public stockholding, domestic support and the development dimension. These issues have not been addressed as completely as they need to be, it said.

On new issues, it said that the scope of these issues have not been established. They should only be brought to the table with the conclusion of the DDA.

Jamaica supported the G33. It also expressed dismay over the process in Nairobi. The Nairobi outcome and process was not atypical. The lack of transparency has been normal in these meetings. There were two elements - exclusion and brinksmanship. These have been ingrained in the WTO's working methods.

Jamaica supported a more transparent and inclusive process, adding that we need to improve our working methods.

Gabon supported the African Group. The multilateral trading system is extremely important for the development of the country, it said.

NEW SLATE OF CHAIRS FOR 2016

The General Council also noted the consensus on the slate of new chairpersons of its various bodies for 2016.

The Chair of the General Council will be Ambassador Harald Neple (Norway), while the Chair of the Dispute Settlement Body will be Ambassador Xavier Carim (South Africa).

The other Chairs are: Trade Policy Review Body - Ms Irene B. K. Young (Hong Kong-China); Council for Trade in Goods - Ambassador Hamish McCormick (Australia); Council for Trade in Services - Ambassador Gustavo Miguel Vanerio Balbela (Uruguay); Council for TRIPS - Mr. Modest Jonathan Mero (Tanzania).

The Committee on Trade and Development will be chaired by Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr (Uganda); Committee on Balance-of-Payments Restrictions - Ambassador M. Shameem Ahsan (Bangladesh); Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration - Ambassador Inga Ernstsone (Latvia); Committee on Trade and Environment - Ambassador Hector Casanueva (Chile); Committee on Regional Trade Agreements - Ambassador Daniel Blockart (Sweden); Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance - Ambassador Atanas Atanassov Paparizov (Bulgaria); Working Group on Trade and Transfer of Technology - Ambassador Luis Enrique Chavez Basagoitia (Peru); Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation - Ambassador Esteban Conejos (Philippines); and Dispute Settlement Body in Special Session - Ambassador Mame Baba Cisse (Senegal).

 


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