TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar16/13)
28 March 2016
Third World Network

US alone, against Doha mandated multilateral solution to 'Rules issues'
Published in SUNS #8208 dated 24 March 2016

Geneva, 23 Mar (D. Ravi Kanth) - An overwhelming majority of members, particularly developing countries, on Tuesday (22 March) called for a multilateral solution to the "rules" issues under the existing Doha mandate of the Negotiating Group on Rules at the World Trade Organization (WTO), several rules negotiators told the SUNS.

The United States, however, issued a diametrically opposite message that the rules negotiations must not be resumed unless the chair, Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, is sure that there is a clear signal for the way forward after his consultations with members, negotiators maintained.

At a meeting of the Doha Negotiating Group on Rules (NGR), the differences between China, India, South Africa along with other developing countries on the one side, and the US on the other, on how to address the outstanding issues of the existing rules mandate came into the open.

The chair Ambassador Wayne McCook presented a factual report of the positions held by members at the Nairobi ministerial three months ago.

"This is a transparency meeting to hear members' views on the way forward," he told the SUNS. Ambassador McCook said he is ready to hold consultations with members on their respective priorities to advance the work on all issues in the rules dossier.

The "friends of the fish" group - New Zealand, Mexico, Peru, Haiti, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, Paraguay and Pakistan among others - made an aggressive pitch for commencing work on fisheries subsidies without further delay.

The fish group wants a clear outcome by 2017 when trade ministers congregate for the eleventh ministerial meeting.

At Nairobi, the "friends of the fish" made a sustained effort and issued a statement for prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing.

The US, a strong ally of the "friends of the fish" group, stressed for a credible and ambitious outcome with new approaches.

China, India, and South Africa along with other developing countries called for pursuing the unfinished rules negotiations in all pillars based on the special and differential treatment architecture as enshrined in the Doha work program.

China touched on the important issues of anti-dumping such as due restraint and investigations among others to highlight the importance of tackling both anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies without delay.

India called for pursuing all pillars in the rules negotiations for arriving at a balanced outcome.

Many other countries also called for continuing work in the negotiating group, as a multilateral solution to improvements in anti-dumping, horizontal subsidies, fisheries subsidies, and transparency-related provisions in the regional trade agreements can be achieved only in the Doha negotiating group on rules.

Brazil issued an ambiguous message that it is open to process and timing, implying that it would go with the chair's decision based on his consultations.

Japan, the coordinator for the "friends of anti-dumping", called for resuming work on all outstanding issues of anti-dumping.

The European Union maintained that all issues pertaining to subsidies in agriculture, industrial, and fisheries subsidies can only be tackled in the Negotiating Group on Rules.

In sharp contrast, the US adopted a unilateral position as to what needs to be done and what needs to be avoided at the NGR, said a participant familiar with the meeting.

To start with, the US issued sermons to members on what happened at the Nairobi meeting when members adopted differing perspectives.

It argued that members must avoid the impulse to begin the negotiations given the divergent views as expressed in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration.

The US said while the Nairobi meeting and the ministerial declaration would give unease to some members, it also provided a "historic" opportunity by setting the ground for "new approaches" for addressing the remaining issues, according to a South American participant.

Intensifying the war-like campaign for "new approaches" in different negotiating areas of the unfinished Doha work program, a move pointedly aimed at terminating the special and differential treatment for China, India, Brazil, and South Africa among others, the US said that members cannot afford to adopt the stale and failed approaches.

After stating the demand for "new approaches" during the discussions on the unfinished issues of agriculture and services of the Doha work program, the US brought the issue frontally at the Doha rules negotiating body.

At the meeting, the US said "new approaches," which is a euphemism for graduation of China, India, Brazil, and South Africa among others for availing S&DT, are central for pursuing work on subsidies, including fisheries subsidies, according to negotiators present at the meeting.

A US official said this is the first time that members have not reaffirmed the "Doha mandates" in the last 14 years, according to negotiators present at the meeting.

The US official went on to quote paragraph 30 of the Nairobi Ministerial declaration which states: "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."

Washington maintained that new approaches as stated in the paragraph offers immense and historic opportunity for members to move away from the stale debate in which the rules negotiations are enmeshed all these years, a developing country negotiator told the SUNS.

As regards anti-dumping, which includes the elimination of the much-condemned zeroing methodology that is at the heart of the US' anti-dumping measures, the US struck a familiar posture like on trade-distorting domestic support in agriculture.

The US said improvements in anti-dumping provisions must not be addressed by the NGR. Instead, the anti- dumping issues should be left to the working group on anti-dumping of the WTO's regular committee on anti- dumping, according to negotiators present at the meeting.

Like in agriculture, when the US blocked the 2008 revised draft modalities, the US also gets the distinction for blocking substantial work on improving anti-dumping provisions time and time again in the Doha rules negotiations, according to past and present negotiators of the rules negotiating body.

[The US in effect wants to dump negotiations on anti-dumping from the Doha mandated negotiations, and for it to be tackled in the regular committee on anti-dumping where the issue could be bottled up by the US, while it gets its way on accords in Doha mandated talks only on issues of interest to it, and hit major developing countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa. - SUNS]

While an overwhelming majority of members approved the elimination of zeroing methodology in the Doha rules negotiations, and the Appellate Body has repeatedly ruled against the methodology (in disputes involving the US), the US was the only country which opposed the recommendation on the zeroing issue.

The US also gets the distinction for losing most of the AD disputes at the WTO because of the controversial use of zeroing methodology.

Surprisingly, Japan, which is a major ally of the US in the run-up to the Nairobi ministerial meeting, failed to secure any relief on anti-dumping issues because of opposition from the US.

Japan, which is the coordinator for the friends of anti-dumping group, merely swallowed the US' opposition to bring any improvements in anti-dumping provisions, several rules negotiators maintained.

Even the European Union, which is a strong partner for the US in finalizing the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration, is unable to address its core issues in anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies because of the American opposition, said a subsidies negotiator.

In crux, the rules negotiations are being held hostage to the whims and fancies of one member, the US, who wants a credible and ambitious outcome on fisheries subsidies based on new approaches but no progress in other areas of the rules dossier, according to an Asian negotiator.