Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct16/07)
7 October 2016
Third World Network
points finger at China for inflexible attitudes
Published in SUNS #8324 dated 3 October 2016
Geneva, 30 Sep (D. Ravi Kanth) -- The WTO Director-General Roberto
Azevedo is reported to have told G90 coordinators about the inflexible
positions of China and its refusal to contribute to the eleventh ministerial
conference (MC11) next year, sources familiar with the discussions
The DG held closed door consultations with the G90 coordinators over
the past two weeks, as trade ministers of developed countries and
their allies in developing countries planned an informal summit at
Oslo on 21 October to carve out deliverables for MC11, according to
The G90 coordinators include the chairs of the Africa, Caribbean,
and Pacific (ACP) group, the Africa Group, and the Least-Developed
During the meetings, Azevedo discussed the state of play at the WTO
as part of preparatory work.
Azevedo has mentioned two major concerns during the meetings with
the three coordinators, according to a debriefing by one of the coordinators
to the group's members.
The DG has informed the coordinators at these meetings about China
and its lack of flexibility, and that China does not want to contribute
to anything with a view to making progress, said a source, who asked
not to be quoted.
The DG has also insisted that he should be invited for a proposed
retreat of the Africa Group which is going to take place during 10
to 13 October, outside Geneva, the source added.
Azevedo is now being asked to address the Africa Group for one and
a half hours at the retreat.
The Director-General's office also called the coordinators today to
advise them that they should deliver their statements at the informal
Heads of Delegations (HOD) meeting on Friday, knowing full well that
the statements issued by any member at informal HOD meetings do not
go into the record, sources told the SUNS.
The DG's specific mention of China but not any other country, particularly
the United States which has consistently adopted intransigent positions
on the outstanding issues in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) as
well as cotton and other core concerns of the LDCs, has dismayed the
three coordinators, the source suggested.
Also, it is puzzling as to why China is being mentioned at a time
when Beijing has repeatedly adopted pro-DDA and developmental positions
during the past ten months, including at the recently hosted G20 leaders'
meeting in Hangzhou.
Against the backdrop of sustained efforts by the Cairns Group of farm
exporting countries, including Brazil, in insisting that China must
undertake commensurate commitments to reduce its trade distorting
domestic support to convince the US to take appropriate commitments,
it is plausible that the DG might be turning his attention to China,
said a South American trade official, who asked not to be quoted.
Meanwhile, Norway will convene a two-day informal trade summit of
select countries in Oslo on October 21 to discuss about the deliverables
for the eleventh ministerial conference next year in South America.
Azevedo is expected to present his ideas at the Oslo meeting following
the well-orchestrated public relations pitch made for launching negotiations
on electronic commerce, digital trade, and global value chains by
the European Union and other developed as well as some developing
countries at the so-called Public Forum that concluded on Thursday
The DG, who was seen all over the Public Forum for three days, addressed
himself to the participants and said: "We have seen an impressive
level of engagement this year, particularly from the private sector,
and I am pleased that you decided to share some of your ideas with
us today. However, to reach agreement amongst businesses is but one
element of the equation. The biggest challenge is to bring your ideas
and suggestions to the next level, helping to inform the debate among
WTO members here in Geneva. And for that to happen, it is vital to
engage with the members and interact with them."
Despite the opaque ‘green room' of Group of Five countries (the US,
the EU, China, India, and Brazil), the Group of Seven countries (the
US, the EU, China, India, Brazil, Australia, and Japan) that he perfected
over the past three years, Azevedo chose to chant the mantra of "inclusiveness"
endlessly during the Public Forum.
Significantly, the DG enabled the developed countries to transform
their demand for e-commerce into a clarion call at the Public Forum,
crowding out the unfinished developmental agenda of the Doha work
program, said a trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.
Several civil society participants at the Forum in their comments
also made similar complaints, charging that even the e-commerce item
had the hidden investment agenda and other jettisoned issues wrapped
The Oslo meeting, which will witness the first concrete effort for
launching of e-commerce/digital trade negotiations, will be a venue
for two major meetings of trade ministers representing the controversial/plurilateral
initiatives of Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) as well as the Environmental
Goods Agreement (EGA).
Last week, both meetings ended without any progress on substantive
issues, according to people who took part in the meetings.
The TISA ministers will hold a meeting on October 21 at Oslo to discuss
about financial services, state-owned enterprises, localization provisions,
telecom, maritime transport and air transport among others.
This will be preceded by senior officials from the 23 countries of
TISA holding a two-day meeting in Washington from October 17 on the
margins of the global summit on trade in services being hosted by
the Coalition of Services Industries, the main US trade lobby for
After the TISA senior officials' meeting, trade ministers of the group
will hold a stocktaking exercise in Oslo on the margins of a mini-ministerial
summit to discuss ways to conclude the negotiations by the end of
TISA's 23 members include Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei,
Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel,
Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, South
Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States, Pakistan, and Mauritius.
In a separate development, the trade ministers representing the plurilateral
initiative on environmental goods agreement will also hold a meeting
in Oslo to discuss the differences among key members on four major
The four issues include the number of products, staging of tariff
elimination, critical mass, and the work program for other outstanding
Major developed countries are already blaming China for adopting an
inflexible stand on the number of products, the issue of elimination
of tariffs and also the staging of phase-out of tariffs.
"China is key to the negotiations on a robust EGA deal but Beijing
is holding back its cards," said a trade envoy dealing with the
According to China and other developing-country members of the EGA,
the G20 leaders' communique in Hangzhou early this month only emphasized
that EGA members will "seek" to eliminate tariffs.
Therefore, there is no need for eliminating tariffs, a view that is
being fiercely opposed by the United States, the European Union, Japan,
and other major developed countries.
In short, the WTO has now become the chosen forum either for the type
of multilateral agreements in which the US and its allies have major
interests like the Trade Facilitation Agreement, or plurilateral agreements
like the TISA and the EGA.
The G-90 countries have little to gain from such a transformed WTO
under the current leadership which primarily works to advance the
agenda of the developed countries in e-commerce, or other initiatives
such as the SMEs and global value chains but not for those unresolved
DDA issues, said a trade envoy. +