Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May16/10)
16 May 2016
Third World Network
WTO Chairs' reports reveal continued differences on key issues
Published in SUNS #8238 dated 11 May 2016
Geneva, 10 May (Kanaga Raja) -- Reports by the Chairs of the various
WTO negotiating groups on their recent discussions - in particular
on agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and services
- have revealed continued differences among the Membership on the
At an informal Heads of Delegation (HOD) meeting on Monday (9 May),
convened by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo, the Chairs of the
various negotiating groups reported on the recent discussions that
they had held on the work going forward post-Nairobi.
The D-G also reported on his recent consultations, both in Geneva
and in his various bilateral visits to capitals in the past weeks.
In their interventions, a number of delegations spoke on their priorities
for the work going forward, with several developing countries highlighting
the importance of agriculture, in particular the issue of domestic
support, the development dimension and Special and Differential Treatment
REPORTS OF NEGOTIATING GROUP CHAIRS
According to trade officials, the Chair of NAMA negotiating group,
Ambassador Remigi Winzap of Switzerland, referred to the recent open-ended
meeting of the negotiating group and said that many members are looking
for a foothold, and to try and find ways to narrow their differences.
The largest group of members, Winzap said, would like to continue
to pursue an agreement on NAMA in the Doha context. Others took either
an indifferent or defensive position, usually in support of industrialisation
Among the issues raised by Members were ways of adjusting the current
level of ambition. They did not want sequencing of issues (namely,
that NAMA should stand on its own), and there should be less than
full reciprocity for developing countries and special and differential
Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) should also be addressed, although it was
on the tariff side that most Members talked about their preferences.
Members also mentioned improving predictability by reducing ‘water'
(between bound and applied tariffs). But it is important to get the
balance right and an outcome that would help as many countries as
According to the Chair, among the NTBs that were mentioned were coherence
with regional trade agreements and labelling.
He said many Members are looking for ways to advance the negotiations
- they are looking at it from different perspectives, but they are
also making linkages between NAMA and market access in agriculture.
The challenge is how to build convergence across this diverse group
of opposing views, keeping in mind that without an outcome in other
areas there can be no outcome in NAMA and vice versa, he said.
The Chair of the agriculture negotiations, Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis
of New Zealand, said there was a shared understanding of the objective
among Members, which is that agriculture should be part of any outcome
at MC11 (in 2017), and that there is discussion with respect to the
negotiating mandates of Nairobi and of Article XX (of the Agreement
on Agriculture), which calls for continuance of the agriculture reform
process, as part of the built-in agenda of the Uruguay Round.
According to the Chair, there was concern expressed by Members about
rising trade protectionism as well as the impact of preferential trading
arrangements on the multilateral negotiations.
A number of references were made to the Sustainable Development Goals,
including Goal 2 which has as an objective, the elimination of export
subsidies, something which the Chair said, Members have already achieved.
He also pointed to the discussion on the challenge of the once-in-two-years
ministerial conference. There are also the known ‘knowns' - the domestic
political cycles that countries go through that can lead to some concerns
about trade, among the electorate of members.
He also highlighted the importance of understanding clearly where
Members are going in the negotiations here in Geneva, because this
will have an impact on domestic policy reform. Many Members also spoke
of the value that they attach to the multilateral trading system.
There was a discussion on the substance, said the Chair. Last September,
Members spoke about their positions on market access and domestic
support and took very hard positions on these. It was the Chair's
sense that Members are more willing at this stage to try and find
pragmatic ways forward.
The Special Safeguard Mechansim (SSM) and public stockholding for
food security purposes are very high priority issues for a number
of Members, Vitalis said, adding that for many others, their positions
on these issues have not changed.
He also said that domestic support is a clear priority for the Membership
and there was a discussion whether this might be a target for MC11.
There were many Members who said that this would be a good idea.
But in terms of specific ideas on how to move out of the rut that
we have been on this issue, we do not have these proposals as yet,
said the Chair.
According to the Chair, one of the biggest problems that is hurting
the domestic support negotiations is that it is difficult to know
where we are because only 24 members have actually kept their notifications
up to date. This was an embarrassing situation.
With respect to market access issues in agriculture, the Chair said
that Members were talking about converting to ad valorem duties, as
well as concerns about preference erosion in the context of preferential
He said some Members do not want to take up export competition again
as it would no longer be helpful, while others are making this a high
priority. Implementing this and the other Nairobi decisions, is very
important for many Members.
On other issues, the Chair said some Members wanted to talk about
export restrictions, SPS measures, private standards, subsidies for
bio-fuels, and GIs. But these are not issues on which there is a consensus
emerging, he added.
The Chair of the services negotiations, Ambassador Gabriel Duque of
Colombia, said that at the 3 May meeting of the Council for Trade
in Services in Special Session, there was a strong show of support
for the importance of services to growth and development.
There was discussion about narrowing the difference between what governments
commit in the WTO and what their actual regime is, and that there
should not be sequencing, which is detrimental to these negotiations.
According to the Chair, these are challenges that delegates are still
wrestling with. There are a number of delegations that say that the
services negotiations are lagging behind other areas, and that it
was important to narrow differences between commitments and existing
There is a willingness to talk about domestic regulation. Members
are prepared to do some brainstorming and are prepared to discuss
new approaches. S&DT is going to be very important, he said.
There was discussion as well about putting forward new offers, as
well as discussions about Members perhaps taking a sectoral approach
to the services negotiations. Members wanted revised and improved
offers with flexibility for developing countries.
Some Members called for preserving the DDA architecture, while others
said new approaches were needed. Developing and least-developed country
decisions that came out of Nairobi should be implemented.
According to the Chair, Members were also talking about services with
respect to e-commerce. Some delegations talked about having a services
trade facilitation agreement.
There was a lot of discussion across the board and for many delegations
there was a sense of urgency and worry about the impact of a further
The Chair of the rules negotiating group, Ambassador Wayne McCook
of Jamaica, said there was a reflective mood post-Nairobi. There is
a collective appreciation of the importance of moving forward and
Many delegates emphasised how important it was to get progress in
rules. Some have called for progress in specific areas, while others
said that it was important to have balance.
The Chair informed that there will be a meeting of the group on 25
May where more discussions will take place.
He said there was quite a lot of discussion about the importance of
getting an agreement on fisheries subsidies, while others called for
an agreement on anti-dumping. Yet others called for an agreement on
There was also a discussion on taking a multilateral versus a plurilateral
approach, as well as on whether there should be a linkage between
rules and other areas.
According to trade officials, the Chairs of the Committee on Trade
and Development in Special Session, the TRIPS Council in Special Session,
Committee on Trade and Environment in Special Session, and the new
Chair of the Dispute Settlement Body in Special Session briefly spoke
at the HOD meeting.
The Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session will be
meeting later this month.
On the discussions on the GI register for wines and spirits in the
TRIPS Council Special Session, the TRIPS Chair said that Members are
reflecting and there is a lot of watching as to what is going on in
the other areas.
The Chair of the Committee on Trade and Environment in Special Session
said that he has not yet been approached by anyone saying that they
have new ideas.
REMARKS BY THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL
According to trade officials, D-G Azevedo mentioned his visits to
various countries and of his meetings in the visits with a lot of
stakeholders as well as heads of state and government.
When things start to pick up a little bit in the second half of the
year, he plans to devote his time to working with members on trying
to flesh out more concrete positions.
It was extremely important now that Members implement the Bali and
Nairobi outcomes and this includes export competition, cotton, LDC
issues, trade facilitation, and the SSM and public stockholding.
Members need to build on these outcomes and advance the negotiations,
he said, adding that there has been a significant increase in the
level of interest in our work since before Nairobi.
Certainly, this is true in the business community. He pointed to an
upcoming meeting on 30 May, and said it was his effort to facilitate
discussion between members of the international chamber of commerce
and B20 with the WTO membership.
The idea is to have small, medium and large companies from developing
and developed countries coming to Geneva to discuss among themselves
what they would like to see, and then to discuss it with members.
There may be an opportunity to put forward some interesting suggestions.
Azevedo was pleased with the change in tone that he has heard from
the members. It is more positive than what he has heard in quite some
time. There is a lot of ideas about process and substance, but we
are not getting too many clear examples of these coming forward as
proposals, as yet.
There is need to find ways of overcoming members' differences, he
said, adding that with respect to the Doha Round, he has not heard
anything that would be characterised as a breakthrough.
According to Azevedo, for two years we did not have success on this.
The differences are not really about substance, they are much more
about politics. He has not heard any ideas at all on how that process
can move forward.
The D-G said that there are also ideas that are being put forward
that many Members would like to support, some of these are inside
the DDA like fisheries subsidies. Others are not, like competition
policy, small and medium sized enterprises, investment, e-commerce,
private standards, and NTBs.
"We need to get a much greater specificity on this," he
said, adding that e-commerce for example could cover an entire universe
of potential issues. So what exactly do Members mean on this?
The D-G also mentioned the importance of timing and the process, saying
that with respect to timing, if we are to deliver on results by MC11,
we need to begin to establish our priorities as soon as possible.
We know that the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes
is an issue for MC11. We don't have unlimited time to find other issues,
if there are other issues, he said.
It needs to be a proponent-driven process. He also said that he is
a proponent of multilateral negotiations. He suggested that any discussions
that begin in the non-Doha areas be open and inclusive.
Not everyone will be ready or willing to participate in all the discussions.
This needs to be recognised and Members will need to take on board
the different circumstances of different members.
He said that he is hearing loud and clear from capitals that we need
to keep delivering. That we need to build on the success of Bali and
Nairobi and we need to begin to define the outlines of what we might
achieve by MC11. Our period of reflection must soon be over, said
Azevedo, adding that Members need to be more specific on what they
would like to see.
VIEWS OF MEMBERS
According to trade officials, Paraguay said that small steps can be
helpful to make progress, but there is need to make sure that things
are balanced and are done in a useful way. Agriculture is the key
and the SDGs could be a good guidance.
On market access in agriculture, Paraguay said tariff peaks, tariff
escalation, SSM and quantitative restrictions should be looked at.
Domestic support is extremely important.
South Africa said MC10 had made an important contribution and advanced
the DDA on export competition. There is need now to begin to look
for ways forward. What is clear is that some members challenge the
DDA model and the notion of S&DT, whereas most developing countries
are not prepared to give up the DDA mandate and possibly expose themselves
to more onerous demands from other countries.
We need to carefully assess how we go forward and we need more time
to reflect on the best ways to move ahead, but one idea should clearly
articulate the importance of development and S&DT that must be
included, South Africa added.
The European Union said that Nairobi was a major success and there
is need to start building on this. The period of reflection has been
useful and necessary but we now need to move from thinking to acting.
We don't want to drift, we want to start preparing for MC11 now. There
are those who think we should focus on an ambitious outcome with one
or more core areas covered and there are those who think we should
try for something small.
The EU favours a more ambitious outcome. There is need to address
domestic support in agriculture and public stockholding. Beyond this,
there needs to be a discussion on services, fisheries subsidies, as
well as good progress in other areas.
But the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD) also says that other
areas of interest to WTO members could be taken up, it said.
Japan said that there is need to move off reflection and into acting.
Cutting-edge trade liberalisation is happening elsewhere, whether
we like it or not. The world is changing very fast. Digital trade
and global value chains go beyond borders and existing multilateral
There is need to begin to find areas where we can reach agreement
at MC11. The WTO is a multilateral institution and the goal is always
on a multilateral solution. But if multilateral outcomes don't work,
plurilateral outcomes like the Information Technology Agreement (ITA)
which are on an MFN basis are the second-best option.
According to Japan, while S&DT is important, some developing countries
have some of the world's most competitive industries. Should they
get S&DT? There should be a needs-based approach to the question
Japan would be interested in talking about e-commerce and fisheries
subsidies, which is one of the SDGs.
The United States said that there is need to consider what the path
forward is. The idea of having discussions has been useful. This reflection
period has been useful, but we need to show a little bit more engagement.
The US said it is determined to conclude the environmental goods agreement
(EGA) by the G20 leaders' meeting to be held in China. A group of
members has already started to move towards this outcome.
On fisheries subsidies, the US said that this is an area that cannot
wait. Fish stocks are dangerously depleted and it is an area that
cuts across the interests of developing and developed countries. Seeing
that a multilateral negotiation was not possible in Nairobi, a group
of 28 members put together an approach on fisheries subsidies that
they think could make progress.
On the question of S&DT, the US said that there are certain approaches
to this issue that it is willing to look at. But there needs to be
a better discussion about development issues more generally. In the
Doha era, this was difficult to do. But now they need to be looking
On agriculture, services, NAMA and development, the US said that these
are still very important issues. We need to find ways of moving these
issues forward. We have to be creative. The US said that it did put
forward an idea on domestic support based on all major subsidisers
trying to find ways to contribute.
There is need to look as well at agricultural market access, said
the US, citing the World Bank as saying that 90% of the distortions
in agriculture are not caused by subsidies but by tariffs, and that
developing countries collect 70% of their agricultural tariffs from
other developing countries.
The issue of agricultural market access is not a North-South debate
as the SSM differences have made clear, the US claimed.
On MC11, the US said that it is too soon to begin to prepare for an
outcome here. It is important to recognise that some ideas may not
fit into a two-year cycle.
India said that the period of reflection has been valuable. It has
given members a chance to assess. India has been active and will continue
to be active. The efforts to find a way forward must come through
a member-driven process. Progress is best made through the submission
of written proposals.
The Bali and Nairobi ministerial meetings produced results; they may
not have been optimal, but they did produce results. Implementation
of these outcomes is important.
On agriculture, India said that there was progress made on export
competition, and implementation of this is going to be very important.
On services, it said that this is a new frontier for many developing
countries. India said that there is need to follow up to make progress
in each of the four modes of supply.
India said that even though there are difficulties in the DDA, pursuing
things multilaterally is preferable.
Brazil said that it is actively engaging and that it has been talking
with capitals. It is prepared to engage with new proposals, if and
when that time emerges. It is looking to have more trade.
According to Brazil, there is a linkage being made now between development
and S&DT. S&DT is not a problem for development. It is something
which is helpful in staging implementation of reforms.
In terms of what hinders development, it is tariff peaks, domestic
support, and tariff escalation. It is not S&DT, Brazil said, noting
that S&DT was a very important component of the Trade Facilitation
On agriculture, Brazil said that domestic support and market access
are very important. It is ready to engage on NAMA and talk about market
access there if market access is being discussed in agriculture.
Argentina called for implementation of the NMD as soon as possible,
particularly with respect to export competition. It saw domestic support
as the most important issue. It is also committed to fisheries subsidies.
It would like to see this as an outcome for MC11.
Benin, on behalf of the LDCs, referred to the retreat that the group
had held recently in Montreux. Through this retreat, the LDCs are
improving their prospects for putting together some new ideas and
new proposals. There needs to be more progress in cotton, agriculture,
duty-free quota-free market access for LDCs (DFQF), and on the services
Mexico expressed concern that trade was growing slowly. It is now
more of an issue in the political discourse. Governments now are finding
that trade is politically sensitive, and trade is being seen as something
dangerous by some members of the electorate rather than as an engine
for growth. It said progress can be made in areas like rules, and
China said that reflecting is enlightening, even exciting, but sometimes
painstaking. But at the end of this process the truth is that nobody
has changed their negotiating position.
In an apparent reference to the US proposal on domestic support, China
said we should refrain from making proposals that have already been
rejected. It is not possible for one member to forcibly change another
member's position without changing their own position.
The exercise needs to be bound in the NMD. S&DT is extremely important,
it said. All the Doha issues should be looked at. It is open as well
to exploring non-Doha issues.
EGA is not a multilateral exercise and it is not a G20 business, so
it should not be brought here or to the G20, it underlined.
Canada said trade is a contributor and can be a multiplier to help
domestic policies but is not a solution in of itself. Issues that
have been considered to be outside of the Doha Round can actually
help to find solutions in the Doha issues, including in agriculture
where satellite technology has helped farmers in developing countries
to increase their output many-fold if they can access weather data
through GPS. +