TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May16/09)
16 May 2016
Third World Network

US-led efforts to erase development outcomes of DDA shot down
Published in SUNS #8238 dated 11 May 2016

Geneva, 10 May (D. Ravi Kanth) -- Several developing countries - South Africa, India, and China among others - on Monday (9 May) shot down efforts by the United States, the European Union, and Japan at the World Trade Organization to erase the fundamental goals of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), a "developmental" outcome based on the special and differential treatment architecture, trade envoys told the SUNS.

"The divergences are everywhere," a developing country trade envoy told the SUNS, pointing to growing attempts to pursue outstanding issues in agriculture, market access for industrial goods, and services without adhering to the DDA architecture.

Significantly, the WTO Director-General, Roberto Azevedo, who had held one-on-one meetings with some 16 countries to persuade them to notify the elimination of export subsidy commitments in their agriculture schedules, changed his stance by calling on members to notify all the major decisions of the Bali and Nairobi outcomes.

(see SUNS #8233 dated 2 May 2016 for a report on the systemic issues raised by the Director-General's efforts for scheduling export subsidy decisions of Nairobi, while remaining silent on other issues such as duty-free and quota-free market access for LDCs and cotton).

At an informal heads of delegations meeting on 9 May at WTO, China rejected a proposal from the United States for concluding the proposed plurilateral initiative for an environmental goods agreement (EGA) at the upcoming G20 leaders' meeting in Hangzhou, China, later this year.

China said the EGA initiative is one for a multilateral agreement, not a G20 issue.

The US and China also differed on how to address issues in domestic support for agriculture, development, and special and differential treatment, according to participants present at the meeting.

The HOD meeting witnessed several differences on how to advance work in different areas, including the approaches to be adopted for addressing the outstanding issues in agriculture, market access for industrial goods and services.

South Africa's trade envoy Xavier Carim said firmly that, "Most developing country Members continue to hold fast to the developmental mandate of the DDA and are not prepared to give it up for approaches that erode its principles and content and, at the same time, risk exposure to new, more onerous demands that could further prejudice their trade and development interests."

Ambassador Carim also warned against introducing new issues without resolving the core Doha issues. The South African envoy said that "the situation is not too different when the question of new issues arises."

"While it is still not clear which new issue or issues will be raised for consideration, in our view there will be little chance of agreement to even consider exploring those issues multilaterally, until there is some shared understanding on how we intend to address the remaining Doha issues which we know have been deemed ‘priority' by Ministers," he argued.

The South African envoy emphasized that "to have any chance of multilateral success, any idea or any approach to negotiations - on any issue - should clearly articulate its developmental content and should specify how the principle of special and differential treatment will be applied in meaningful manner."

In similar vein, India said "advancing negotiations on the DDA issues, in our view, should remain a matter of priority for the membership." India warned that moving "the debate to ‘new issues' without ensuring adequate progress on the remaining DDA issues, would not be in line with the Ministerial mandate."

"As we continue to assess individually as well as collectively, it would be imperative that we do not lose sight of the centrality of the development dimension," India maintained.

India poured cold water on the DG's move to schedule elimination of export subsidy commitments without scheduling other issues of the Bali and Nairobi ministerial meetings. India maintained that "the Bali and Nairobi Ministerials have produced positive outcomes insofar as the negotiating pillar of the WTO is concerned."

India said "going forward, we need to timely implement all the decisions emerging from the Bali and Nairobi Ministerials in the area of agriculture, development, trade facilitation and LDC related issues" so as to avoid raising systemic issues.

China delivered a hard-hitting statement against some members for running away from the DDA and developmental agenda.

China rejected the US proposal on domestic support, maintaining that members should refrain from making proposals that are already rejected. China said it is wrong for one member to forcibly change the positions of other members while refusing to change their own positions.

During the meeting, the US trade envoy spoke of new templates for addressing issues in the domestic support and market access for farm products and fisheries subsidies.

Ambassador Michael Punke maintained the US stance for addressing issues based on current realities but not the "Doha era" structure. The US called for addressing fisheries subsidies on a strong footing given the depleting fisheries stocks.

The US mentioned about an approach put forward by 28 members at the Nairobi meeting to address fisheries subsidies. The US suggested that it had circulated a proposal on domestic support involving all major subsidisers.

The US said agriculture market access needs to be addressed on a strong footing.

Without mentioning the ongoing political debates in the United States, Mexico's trade envoy Ambassador Fernando de Mateo said the talk of building walls is not useful.

Brazil and Canada also drew attention to the growing opposition and political resistance to trade. +