TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May16/15)
20 May 2016
Third World Network

South stress on S&DT, development, SSM, public stockholding
Published in SUNS #8241 dated 17 May 2016

Geneva, 13 May (Kanaga Raja) - A number of developing countries, speaking at the meeting of the General Council of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Thursday (12 May), highlighted the importance of special and differential treatment (S&DT), the development dimension and the need to implement all the Bali and Nairobi decisions.

Highlighting their priorities for the work going forward post-Nairobi and on the potential deliverables for the eleventh ministerial conference (MC11, to be held in 2017), the developing countries also laid stress on the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and public stockholding for food security purposes, and for these two issues to be delivered at MC11.

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) called for tangible progress on cotton by MC11.

Several developing countries also said that there is need to focus on the Doha issues first, before looking at the new issues.

The views of the developing countries were on the first agenda item, report by Director-General Roberto Azevedo, as Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC).

Speaking in his capacity as TNC Chair, Azevedo said that the chairs of the negotiating groups will be continuing their work, and some will be holding open-ended meetings and further consultations in the coming days and weeks.

"I encourage you to remain engaged in these activities - and to keep talking to each other... I think it is important now that we step up our interactions, across the full range of formats. In all cases it is important that we move from reflection to action. I look forward to these conversations evolving in the coming weeks," he said.

The D-G had made a full report at an informal Heads of Delegation (HOD) meeting on Monday (9 May) and, at the General Council meeting on Thursday, he asked for his statement at that HOD meeting to be added to the record of the General Council meeting.

The Chairs of the various negotiating groups had also reported on their recent discussions at that HOD meeting. Their reports, in particular on agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and services, revealed continued differences among the Membership on the key issues (see SUNS #8238 dated 11 May 2016 on the D-G's remarks and the Chairs' reports).

A number of delegations, who had also spoken at that HOD meeting, highlighted the importance of agriculture and in particular the issue of domestic support, the development dimension and S&DT, as among their priorities for the work going forward. These statements too were added to the record of the General Council meeting.

Several other delegations that had not spoken at the informal HOD meeting on Monday, spoke at the General Council.

According to trade officials, Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Arab Group, noted that there has been no concrete progress on agriculture and NAMA (non-agricultural market access), and the way forward seemed unclear. The last two ministerial conferences were successes, and it was very important for the WTO to keep showing stakeholders that it is capable of delivering.

There was need to start working on what we can do for MC11, and the way to do this is to be guided by the ministerial declaration and decisions of previous ministerial conferences; time is running out, and members need to start moving.

Bolivia said it is important to find balance. The multilateral trading system is important to developing countries and it needs to give greater benefit to these countries, particularly the smallest of them. It referred to para 30 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD) which talks about the Doha issues.

It believes that the Doha Round is the only framework that is still valid, and members should not open up other issues until the Doha issues have been resolved. There is no agreement on the new issues. It is important that the multilateral nature of the WTO be reinforced. It is a concern when the organisation is beginning to take on plurilateral discussions.

Benin, on behalf of the LDCs, said there is need to see reforms to the Agriculture Agreement. There is need to ensure that this is done for the LDCs who are so dependent on agriculture. The effective implementation of the NMD will be important for the LDCs.

Thirty-six of the LDCs were cotton producers, and there was some progress on cotton in Nairobi. It is very important to have transparency with respect to support for cotton through notifications, Benin added.

Between now and MC11, it is very important that there is more progress on the cotton issue. Special and differential treatment is extremely important, as well as an agreement on fisheries subsidies, which must take into account the special concerns of the LDCs and traditional fishing practices.

Cameroon said that there is need to support the Sustainable Development Goals, and build on the outcomes of the Nairobi Ministerial Conference. There is further need to make sure that S&DT and trade-distorting subsidies (in agriculture) are addressed.

Uganda, supporting Benin's statement, said it is problematic that we do not yet have agreement on trade-distorting support. The Doha modalities must not be reduced.

On new issues, Uganda said the WTO must not become a two-tiered organisation, and new issues must be explicitly mandated by ministers and agreed to by consensus.

Nigeria said that the period of reflection should not keep going for too long. There is need to build on the successes of MC9 (held in Bali in 2013) and MC10. Members should be guided by the NMD decisions, particularly in areas where agreement has not been reached.

There is also need to look at export competition, public stockholding, the SSM, the LDC issues and the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

It said the development dimension should remain the priority, and highlighted the importance of agriculture, which has long been a distorted sector. There is need to level the playing field. It stressed on a transparent, inclusive and bottom-up approach.

Rwanda said that the outcome of MC11 should be viewed as a way of supporting the SDGs. Development must be central to the outcome of MC11. It is very important that the Doha issues including the three pillars of agriculture, NAMA and services, development, TRIPS issues and rules are addressed.

It also highlighted the importance of public stockholding, SSM, and fisheries subsidies. On NAMA, it said that policy space is very important.

Venezuela supported the G33 on the SSM and public stockholding. It is concerned that little room has been given to policy space for developing countries in the NAMA negotiations.

Ecuador highlighted the importance of S&DT, development, SSM and public stockholding.

Kenya said that there is no clear path as yet for the post-Nairobi work programme. Members need to pivot from reflection to action. Agriculture, fisheries subsidies, S&DT, and less than full reciprocity (LTFR) are important. It expressed support for the G33 on the SSM and public stockholding.

Cuba said that it did not want to see a two-tiered negotiation. It supported Bolivia and Venezuela.

Mali, on behalf of the Cotton-4 countries, recognised that real progress was made in Nairobi. It was a tangible progress - it may not be everything it wanted, but it was a step in the right direction.

It renewed its call for addressing trade-distorting domestic support. It is also important to have adequate notification in terms of this discussion.

Qatar said that the organisation is in a bit of a predicament with respect to sequencing. It understands the importance of moving forward in those areas where progress can be identified. But this should not be a stand-alone process that leaves aside other issues.

Nepal supported the LDCs.

Turkey said that the implementation of the Bali and Nairobi decisions are very important, but new issues should not be ignored. Plurilateral issues like the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) are important to support the credibility of the negotiating arm of the WTO.

It said agriculture has so far only delivered on export competition and to a certain extent on cotton. But the questions of SSM and public stockholding are also important. There should be delivery on these issues at MC11. There should also be an outcome on reduction of tariffs on industrial goods by MC11.

Pakistan said that there have been two ministerial conference outcomes which have given us real momentum. Every effort should be made to ensure that this continues. There is need to begin to look at issues such as cotton, and trade-distorting domestic support.

Tunisia said that less than full reciprocity is key. It was worried about preference erosion.

Chile said that there was need to work hard on the implementation of the decisions taken in Nairobi and to make sure that we start negotiating on issues that have not been agreed, including agriculture, NAMA, services and fisheries subsidies.

Morocco, on behalf of the African Group, said that the outcomes from the Nairobi Ministerial Conference particularly for LDCs were good and must be implemented. Before looking at new issues, there is need to focus on the Doha issues. In this respect, S&DT and agriculture are very important.

These issues need to be addressed before we can take on new issues, said Morocco, adding that priority should be given to cotton. Fisheries subsidies is also important.

Australia, on behalf of itself and New Zealand, said that agriculture, NAMA, services and fisheries subsidies are important. It is important that we step up the pace of our work. The period of reflection needs to be shifted to action, and we should not underestimate the importance of continuing to deliver.

The post-Nairobi period needs to be used for making deliverables before MC11, at MC11 and after MC11, it said.

Sierra Leone agreed with the LDCs and the African Group. The SDGs should be central.

Both Tanzania and Lesotho agreed with Rwanda, Benin, and Morocco.

Several delegations spoke under the second agenda item on implementation of the Bali and Nairobi outcomes.

Brazil mentioned the importance of reinvigorating the work of the Committees, to make them more efficient. It also highlighted the critical importance of transparency, and the issue of notification. These issues of transparency will be critically important and will be valuable to the implementation of the Nairobi decisions.

Montenegro said that it has notified the WTO Secretariat about its ratification of the TFA, while Moldova said its government had approved the TFA, and expected its parliament to do so soon.

The US mentioned notification, as a very important transparency obligation of all members. It is very important for all members to hurry up on these transparency obligations.

On SSM and public stockholding, the US said that it is committed, but it is important to make a distinction between the two. On public stockholding, there is a commitment for members to try and find a solution by MC11. But the SSM is a broader discussion and it is linked to market access in agriculture.

On export competition, the US said that it is open to scheduling export subsidies. But it would expect that all members who have the right to use export subsidies will also schedule and this should be done jointly in concert.

[Chakravarthi Raghavan, Editor-Emeritus of the SUNS, in a comment, said that while Members could implement the Nairobi decisions on export subsidies voluntarily, on-going research work at the South Centre show that this cannot become a binding enforceable commitment as there apparently is no provision in GATT 1994 and in the AoA for WTO members to change their export subsidy commitments scheduled, after multilateral scrutiny, under the WTO treaty in 1994. While GATT procedures enable a Member to reduce and reschedule the reduction of its tariff schedule, there is no such provision in respect of the Agreement on Agriculture in terms of export subsidy commitments (volume and value).

[For any modification of export subsidy schedules to become effective and enforceable under the DSU, Members have to adopt a protocol and, since it has some implications vis-a-vis the WTO's MFN provisions, such a protocol needs to be accepted by all Members before it can be made part of Annex 1A of the WTO treaty to become effective. SUNS]

Benin said that it is very important to implement all the Bali and Nairobi decisions pertaining to the LDCs.

New Zealand supported the Brazilian statement on reinvigorating the Committees to make them more effective, and a very good step up on this front would be for all members to notify.

Canada supported Brazil about reinvigorating the Committees. It highlighted the importance of all members notifying.

Japan supported Brazil on the importance of the regular Committees. We need to understand where we are and where the actual problems lie and the only way to do that is by members notifying, it said.

The EU said that implementation of Bali and Nairobi are of the highest priority. As for the scheduling of export subsidies, this is also a high priority.

Notification is critically important. Many members are far behind in all their notifications and this is a serious concern, it said.