Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct16/09)
7 October 2016
Third World Network
on to formally bury DDA talks at Buenos Aires next year?
Published in SUNS #8326 dated 5 October 2016
Geneva, 4 Oct (D. Ravi Kanth) -- Major developed countries and their
developing country allies along with the World Trade Organization
DG Roberto Azevedo have begun preparing the ground for formally burying
the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) trade negotiations while launching
negotiations for plurilateral deals in e-commerce/digital trade or
other new areas at the eleventh ministerial conference in Buenos Aires
next year, people familiar with the development told the SUNS.
An early indication of what is in the offing for the WTO's eleventh
ministerial meeting to be hosted by Argentina's new right-wing government
came at the informal Heads of Delegations (HoD) meeting last Friday
(30 September) and the General Council meeting on Monday (3 October).
Ahead of these two meetings, the Director-General has spoken his mind
to the London-based The Economist magazine in its latest issue (1
October) about imagining "the WTO brokering another global trade
deal, but only when expectations have been managed down from Doha
[When he was Brazil's trade envoy until August 2013, he insisted that
the revised 2008 draft modalities for Doha agriculture package provided
clear landing zones in a balanced and equitable framework. Azevedo
["The December 2008 draft modalities are the basis for negotiations
and represent the end-game in terms of the landing zones of ambition.
Any marginal adjustments in the level of ambition of those texts may
be assessed only in the context of the overall balance of trade-offs,
bearing in mind that agriculture is the engine of the Round."
["The draft modalities embody a delicate balance achieved after
ten years of negotiations. This equilibrium cannot be ignored or upset,
or we will need readjustments of the entire package with horizontal
repercussions. Such adjustments cannot entail additional unilateral
concessions from developing countries."]
The Director-General, according to The Economist, "remembers
only two well how the WTO's Doha round collapsed under the weight
of its own ambition." Therefore, he said, "Let's do the
trade deals that are in reach."
"As for the WTO," The Economist wrote based on the interview
with Azevedo, "it will for now push "plurilateral"
deals of its own, which embrace enough WTO members to be significant
but which avoid the quagmire of having to secure the agreement of
all its 164 members."
It said the WTO "already boasts some successes [in crafting plurilateral
agreements]: in September, for example, China started cutting tariffs
on technology goods as part of the plurilateral Information Technology
In sharp contrast (to his talk with the Economist), the Director-General
told members at the informal HoD meeting on 30 September that they
"need to change the pace of our engagement in order to make progress."
"I also said that we would need to move from reflection to action,"
He urged members to talk to each other "so that we avoid mistrust
and misperceptions about what you yourselves are trying to achieve."
Azevedo mentioned two things that would help to deal with mistrust
and misperception. "First, we need clarity from the proponents
on what they would like to see as a final outcome of these conversations.
Some are not engaging partly because they do not have a clear sense
of what others want to achieve.
"Second, we should be mindful that, in order to advance multilaterally,
we should be flexible to accommodate the circumstances of different
The immediate priority, said Azevedo, is to "deepen conversations
between Members to scope out the issues for MC11 [eleventh ministerial
conference] - or between now and MC11" and "go as far as
our legs allow."
"Whatever we do - on any issue - will not be the end of the road.
It will be a first step," he said.
He urged members to "look for those balancing elements that take
into account Members' different interests and positions - elements
that respond to the needs of developed, developing and least-developed
"Clearly, some issues are starting to draw more attention,"
Azevedo said. "These include public stockholding [program for
food security], other agriculture-related topics, such as domestic
support, and services; but also other issues such as SMEs, e-commerce,
services facilitation and fisheries subsidies."
The Director-General, however, did not mention the Doha Work Program
Several developed countries such as the United States and the European
Union spoke, almost in tandem with what Azevedo espoused at the meeting.
The US, for instance, said it is working hard for a plurilateral outcome
with a group of countries on fisheries subsidies.
The European Union called for outcomes in a number of areas, in particular
on e-commerce, services facilitation and domestic regulation along
with trade-distorting domestic subsidies and fisheries subsidies.
The EU said that fisheries subsidies is a global issue, arguing that
it must be addressed at the WTO.
Peru's trade envoy Ambassador Luis Enrique Chavez Basagoitia, who
is spearheading the campaign for a multilateral outcome on fisheries
subsidies, said that Peru and Argentina will soon present a joint
proposal to negotiate the possible elements for fisheries subsidies.
A large majority of developing countries and their major coalitions,
however, called for continuing with work on outstanding issues in
the Doha Work Program, including on e-commerce based on the 1998 mandate.
The Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) group called for a "development-oriented
outcome at the MC-11, consistent with various recent global commitments
and goals, in particular the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
and our respective national development objectives."
Rwanda, on behalf of the ACP group, mentioned two issues, namely agriculture
domestic support and fishery subsidies.
On agriculture, the ACP group said: "We must achieve a tangible
outcome leading to substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic
support, with aim to achieving the longstanding agriculture reform.
Trade-distorting domestic support continue to lead negative factors
hindering the emergence of inclusive, free, fair and efficient trade
in agriculture products. Gradual reduction towards full elimination
of those subsidies are essential conditions to leveling playing field
in the agriculture trading system".
As regards "fisheries", the ACP group emphasized that "there
is an urgency to address the dramatic situation of World's Marine
fish stocks that are faced with depletion."
It maintained that members "can't continue with business as usual
in this critical situation which has heavy and multifaceted consequences
at social, economic, political and environmental levels."
Therefore, members "need to find a consensus to discipline subsidies
which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and also to eliminate
subsidies provided to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) [fishing]."
The ACP reiterated its position on "the Doha development-oriented
issues", emphasizing that "without the nexus trade-development
as entrenched in the DDA and in the SDGs, the engagement of developing
countries and especially LDCs in the multilateral trading system loses
most of its sense."
Morocco on behalf of the African Group and Benin on behalf of the
least-developed countries emphasized the importance of delivering
on developmental priorities such as cotton, duty-free and quota-free
market access for the LDCs. Several developing countries such as India
and South Africa also touched on the unfinished Doha issues.
In short, the stage for the WTO's eleventh ministerial meeting in
Buenos Aires is set for a fierce battle between the developed countries
and their developing country allies on the one side, and the large
majority of developing and poorest countries on the other over the
launching of negotiations on new issues while burying the Doha work
program, according to several trade envoys who attended the HoD and
General Council meetings. +