Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr16/01)
4 April 2016
Third World Network
Some ICs plan "modern trade deals" at WTO
Published in SUNS #8210 dated 30 March 2016
Geneva, 29 Mar (D. Ravi Kanth) -- Several developed countries have
begun some preliminary efforts to prepare the ground for what they
call "modern trade deals" at the World Trade Organization.
If successful, such initiatives will end in fracturing the multilateral
World Trade Organisation, trade envoys told the SUNS.
Some key elements of the major initiative will include graduation
of "major developing countries" from Special and Differential
Treatment (S&DT), new digital trade and e-commerce, and open-ended
plurilaterals in different areas, including services.
Close on the heels of notching success at the WTO's tenth ministerial
in Nairobi over three months ago, trade envoys from Canada, Australia,
Switzerland, New Zealand and the former trade envoys of India and
Bangladesh held a three-day meeting convened by the United Kingdom's
foreign office to discuss about a new trade agenda for addressing
outstanding issues as well as new topics.
The high-profile "Wilton Park Dialogue" for "Unlocking
the potential for the World Trade Organization to deliver modern trade
deals" was convened by the British foreign office during 14 March
and 16 March to prepare the ground for negotiations with new approaches
and new issues.
There is broad convergence at the meeting that a one-size-fits-all
special and differential treatment architecture for developing countries
to address the outstanding issues in agriculture, industrial goods,
and services, will not work, said participants familiar with the meeting.
The trade envoys discussed how to arrive at modalities that are increasingly
becoming a den of hostage-taking, according to the participants who
debriefed the SUNS.
In services, there is a common understanding to pursue digital trade
and e-commerce. Trade envoys focused on how to pursue issues in a
plurilateral format if they become difficult to be negotiated in an
open setting involving all members.
The theme for the meeting - "Unlocking the potential for the
World Trade Organization to deliver modern trade deals"- sought
to address how to build new trade deals based on the successes of
the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the ministerial decision on export
competition for farm products, and the Information Technology Agreement
"However, these successes were delivered in spite of the persistent
and fundamental divisions between members on the negotiating agenda
of the WTO," the UK government argued.
"For the first time," according to the agenda circulated
for the meeting, "ministers at the tenth ministerial conference
[in Nairobi] acknowledged that the organization membership is divided
on how to progress future negotiations in the WTO."
While recognizing the "strong commitment of all Members to advance
negotiations on the remaining Doha issues," it is clear a new
approach is needed to deliver progress. "Ministers also noted
that some members will wish to identify and bring new issues to WTO
"The WTO finds itself at a pivotal moment. The UK government
is committed to international diplomatic engagement to ensure that
the WTO re-establish itself as the driving force for global trade
liberalization and the pre-eminent forum for trade negotiations. To
deliver this ambition, it is clear that the flexibility, creativity
and political will that has enabled these recent successes will need
to be harnessed to provide a new framework for negotiation."
The participants were asked to deliver a set of recommendations on
"how to codify best practice to drive future progress."
"What has the WTO done well? Where have subject-specific negotiations
and flexible approaches enabled progress," the UK government
The chair for agriculture negotiations Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis
of New Zealand and the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Joakim Reiter, provided
a detailed account on the outcomes of the Nairobi ministerial, particularly
on what went well and what lessons can be learned.
Canada's associate deputy foreign minister and trade envoy at the
WTO, Ambassador Jonathan Fried, spoke on "successful negotiations:
what makes a good deal?" He answered several questions such as
where have the WTO negotiations been successful and why?
The other questions include:
(i) What can be learned from different approaches to negotiations
in the WTO?
(ii) What are the negotiations that have enabled progress? What were
the key factors in these?
(iii) Which negotiations have broken down - and what were the reasons
(iv) A look at what enabled the conclusion of the Trade Facilitation
(v) What has changed since 2001 and what areas of common interest
can be found?
The participants, which included India's former trade envoy Ambassador
Jayant Dasgupta, Bangladesh's former trade envoy Ambassador Debapriya
Bhattacharya, Australia's trade envoy Hamish McCormick, Switzerland's
Ambassador Remigi Winzap, who chairs the NAMA negotiating body, the
World Bank's senior official Anabel Gonzalez, and Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz
of ICTSD among others, addressed the following questions:
(i) What would a strengthened WTO that is more able to deliver modern
trade deals look like?
(ii) In which policy areas or specific negotiations could new approaches
be applied? Are these best pursued multilaterally or plurilaterally?
(iii) How to take forward the digital trade and e-commerce agenda?
(iv) How might the WTO use flexibilities to develop these new approaches?
(v) How can members use momentum from MC10 and Davos to build consensus
(vi) How to approach S&DT and allow countries at different stages
of development implement agreements at a different pace?
(vii) How to address the global goals?
(viii) How to support LDCs to consider how their interests would be
best serviced by a more open and flexible approach to WTO negotiations?
(ix) How might plurilateral negotiations help to effectively tackle
the Doha and post-Doha agenda?
(x) How can plurilaterals be made more inclusive, helping developing
countries like Kenya consider the benefits of joining the ITA, and
making sure that new approaches do not leave much of the WTO membership
(xi) In agriculture, learning from the success of delivering export
competition pillar at MC10, can members turn their attention to domestic
support and market access? Is a positive outcome on the latter [market
access] possible, given the proliferation of FTAs?
(xii) In non-agriculture market access, what has been already delivered
through the plurilateral agenda and how can more countries benefit
from this progress?
(xiii) Services: a focussed review on areas with the most potential
to deliver progress in the WTO - digital trade and services bundled
with goods. Do the plurilateral models of the Understanding on Financial
Services or the Basic Telecoms Agreement offer alternative models
for the way forward?
(xiv) Development - is there more space for an effective trade and
development agenda and what might be the elements of that agenda?
(xv) LDCs - did Nairobi get us clear to delivering the Bali package
for LDCs and how can we make sure we do this?
(xvi) MC10 implementation: options on public stockholding by MC11
and what to do on the Special Safeguard Mechanism?
There is a common understanding that bite-sized, low-hanging fruits
must be pursued given the complexities involved in the single undertaking
which requires that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,
said one participant who attended the three-day meeting. +