TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar16/14)
28 March 2016
Third World Network

Differing views on way forward on Rules post-Nairobi
Published in SUNS #8208 dated 24 March 2016

Geneva, 23 Mar (Kanaga Raja) - An open-ended meeting of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules on Tuesday (22 March) saw a difference of views among Members on the way forward in the negotiations on rules following the Nairobi Ministerial Conference (MC10) held last December.

According to trade officials, reporting for the first time since MC10, the Chair of the Rules Group, Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, acknowledged the differences on how the post-Nairobi discussions on rules should proceed.

The Chair said while "it's clear that members remain interested in finding ways to secure outcomes on rules," some members wanted to focus on specific areas of interest.

Others emphasised the need for balanced outcomes across all pillars of the negotiations, he added.

Ambassador McCook further said he would make himself available should any delegation wish to consult with him on how to move forward.

The Chair recalled that despite intensive efforts headed by the Rules "facilitator", Jamaican Minister A. J. Nicholson, at the Nairobi Ministerial Conference, WTO members were unable to reach agreement on any of the rules issues, which includes anti-dumping, subsidies and countervailing disciplines, fisheries subsidies, and provisions on regional trade agreements (RTAs).

According to Ambassador McCook, two draft texts produced by the facilitator towards the end of the Nairobi meeting on anti-dumping and fisheries subsidies failed to garner consensus from members.

Apart from the broad commitment to address rules as stated in paragraph 31 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD), only the issue of RTAs was the subject of a specific provision in the text.

[Paragraph 31 of the NMD states: "Nevertheless, there remains a strong commitment of all Members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues. This includes advancing work in all three pillars of agriculture, namely domestic support, market access and export competition, as well as non-agriculture market access, services, development, TRIPS and rules. Work on all the Ministerial Decisions adopted in Part II of this Declaration will remain an important element of our future agenda."]

"Nevertheless, as we are all aware, members are committed to finding ways to advance work on all issues, including rules issues," Ambassador McCook said.

However, the Chair said that proponents for outcomes in the rules negotiations have made it clear that they do not just want to simply pick up where they left off in Nairobi and do not want any limitations imposed by the Nairobi draft proposals and processes on the possible scope and ambition of further work.


A number of delegations took the floor to voice their views on the way forward in the rules negotiations post-Nairobi.

According to trade officials, a number of delegations including New Zealand, Fiji (on behalf of the Pacific group of WTO members and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group), Mexico, Peru, Haiti, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, Paraguay and Pakistan stressed the importance of the negotiations on fisheries subsidies.

They voiced disappointment over the continued inability to secure an agreement, despite what they claimed was broad support for new disciplines in the sector.

According to trade officials, some said that the mandate for a result was clearly spelled out in Target 14.6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which commits governments, by 2020, to prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and refrain from introducing such new subsidies.

They underlined that it was therefore important that an outcome be achieved on fisheries subsidies at the WTO's 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) in 2017.

A number of developing countries in this group of countries pointed to the second part of Target 14.6, which recognises that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiation.

According to trade officials, several members, including China, India and South Africa, underscored that outcomes need to be achieved in all areas of the rules negotiations and that special and differential treatment for developing countries remains an integral part of the negotiations.

India said that the outcome not only needs to be balanced across all pillars but also reflect the realities of the negotiations in the overall context of the WTO.

China highlighted the importance of new disciplines on investigations and due process in anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations. It said that future work should be based on previous work and outcomes.

According to trade officials, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Japan and Hong Kong-China expressed support for continued efforts in the rules negotiations.

Singapore and Chinese Taipei stressed the importance of new disciplines on anti-dumping.

The European Union said that the issue of subsidies, whether industrial, agricultural or in fisheries, could only be effectively addressed in the WTO.

It expressed regret over the lack of urgency in the rules negotiations during the run-up to Nairobi, despite a number of re-calibrated proposals put forward by the proponents.

Those members who indicated a willingness to engage on rules post-Nairobi must now make good on that promise, the EU said.

According to trade officials, the US said that the lengthy and intense discussions on rules in the run-up to and at Nairobi were a useful reminder that the issues were complex and difficult, and that members held widely divergent views among and across them.

The US maintained that Members must avoid the impulse to just resume the negotiations, particularly in the same formats that led only to stalemate rather than progress.

Rules were an example of where new ideas were needed rather than failed mandates and destructive linkages, the US argued.

The US further said that it did not see how any further active negotiations in the Negotiating Group on Rules could bridge the deep divisions in this area.

According to trade officials, Brazil said it was ready to engage further in the Rules Group and that it was ready to discuss all issues on their own merits with the possibility of achieving results at MC11.