Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar17/20)
31 March 2017
Third World Network
EU, Canada campaign against Asian nominee for Chair of Agri
Published in SUNS #8429 dated 24 March 2017
Geneva, 23 Mar (D. Ravi Kanth) - Ahead of the informal heads of delegations
meeting on Friday (24 March), the European Union and Canada along
with other developed countries have intensified their campaign to
block the nominee of the Asian Group of developing countries, Ms Irene
B. K. Young of Hong Kong-China, from becoming the chair of the Doha
agriculture negotiating body on grounds of affiliation, according
to trade envoys familiar with the development.
As a counter to the Asian Group's choice, the EU, Canada, and other
developed countries have proposed Mexico's new trade envoy Ambassador
Roberto Zapata Barradas, promoting his candidature as a "neutral"
candidate - knowing full well that Mexico has all along been a staunch
promoter of trade interests/priorities of industrialized countries,
in the region and outside at the Paris-based Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD), the rich country club, the envoy
said, asking not to be quoted.
[At the 2003 Cancun Ministerial meeting of the WTO, Mexico as Chair,
sided with the US and EU (who on eve of Cancun had joined hands against
developing countries to derail the programme to pursue agriculture
reform by eliminating heavy agri-subsidies of the US, EU and other
industrialised countries), resulting in the spectacular failure of
that Ministerial. SUNS]
The face-off between the two sides - the Asian Group of developing
countries on the one side, and the EU-led developed countries on the
other - has led to an impasse in finalizing the chair for the Doha
agriculture negotiations as well as the slate of other chairs for
the WTO's regular bodies.
The WTO General Council chair, Ambassador Xavier Carim of South Africa,
and the Director-General Roberto Azevedo will convene an informal
meeting of heads of delegations on Friday ostensibly to inform about
the festering impasse.
But behind the scenes, Argentina and Brazil have mounted a campaign
at the behest of the EU and other developed countries that they could
accept any candidate other than the Asian nominee for the agriculture
chair, said a South American trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
Last month, the Asian Group of developing countries nominated the
permanent representative of Hong Kong (China) Ms Irene B. K. Young
as their choice to fill the vacancy of the Doha negotiating body for
agriculture after the previous chair Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis returned
to his capital to become New Zealand's chief trade negotiator.
Subsequently, the Asian Group of developing countries made it clear
that the chair for the Doha agriculture negotiations ought to be from
a developing country and not from New Zealand, which held the post
since the failed Cancun ministerial meeting in 2003.
New Zealand's two successive trade envoys Ambassador Tim Grosser (2003-2005)
and Ambassador Crawford Falconer (2005 to 2009) were credited with
bringing rapid progress in the Doha agriculture negotiations.
While Ambassador Grosser was responsible for overseeing the negotiations
that produced the 2004 July Framework Agreement on Agriculture, Ambassador
Falconer led members in arriving at the 2008 revised draft modalities
that almost decided the final landing zones in the Doha agriculture
The 2008 revised draft modalities, which were blocked by the US because
of the underlying commitments in agriculture, provided clear landing
zones in a balanced and equitable framework.
The former Brazilian trade envoy and now the WTO's second-term Director-General
Roberto Azevedo said in 2011: "The December 2008 draft modalities
are the basis for negotiations and represent the endgame 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."
After becoming the Director-General in September 2013, Azevedo quietly
turned his back on the revised draft modalities in an attempt to ensure
that the US interests in agriculture ruled the roost at the WTO, according
to several trade envoys.
Among subsequent New Zealand's trade envoys who chaired the Doha negotiating
body for agriculture, the work done by Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis
is credited for bringing about a serious engagement among members
to wrap-up the negotiations on the permanent solution for public stockholding
programs for food security despite intense opposition from the US,
the EU, and other major developed countries, said an African trade
Nevertheless, the developing countries decided that they will not
support New Zealand's new trade envoy David Walker on grounds that
he was slowing down the progress made by his predecessor Falconer
through his revised draft modalities.
Against this backdrop, the Asian Group of developing countries proposed
Ms Young of Hong Kong (China), who is now currently the chair for
the Trade Policy Review Body, as a proper choice for addressing outstanding
Doha agriculture issues on a balanced footing.
With nine months left for the WTO's eleventh ministerial meeting,
the Asian Group repeatedly pointed out that she will be able to oversee
the negotiations for addressing issues such as the permanent solution
for public stockholding programs for food security, the special safeguard
mechanism for developing countries, and domestic support, said an
Asian trade envoy.
In an attempt to block her selection, the EU, Canada, and other developed
countries said Ms Young has an affiliation to China, according to
trade envoys familiar with the deliberations.
Subsequently, the industrialized countries proposed Uruguay's trade
envoy Ambassador Gustavo Miguel Vanerio Balbela as the choice of the
CAIRNS group and GRULAC countries.
But, for some inexplicable reasons, Ambassador Balbela chose to withdraw
from the contest.
In place of Ambassador Balbela, the industrialized countries have
now nominated Ambassador Roberto Zapata Barradas of Mexico as a compromise
candidate, knowing full well that Mexico's affiliations to the industrialized
countries is as clear as sunlight, said an envoy from the Asian Group
of developing countries.
The Asian Group rejected the compromise candidate on grounds that
Ms Young is being opposed on political considerations without any
credible reasons. The Asian Group has made it clear that it is not
going to change its position, the envoy suggested.
Meanwhile, to scuttle Ms Young's nomination as the chair, Argentina
and Brazil have apparently suggested that they are willing to accept
any candidate other than Ms Young, the envoy suggested.
In short, the developed countries are leaving no stone unturned to
have their candidate as the chair for the Doha agriculture negotiating
body, given its importance for finalizing the permanent solution for
public stockholding programs for food security before Buenos Aires.
The EU, Canada, and their supporters who raised numerous hurdles in
finalizing the permanent solution for public stockholding programs
for food security want a chair who can whittle down the developmental
elements in the permanent solution for public stockholding programs
for food security at the eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires
later this year, according to trade envoys.