Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul17/20)
28 July 2017
Third World Network
DG pulled up for flouting mandates, WTO and Rules
Published in SUNS #8511 dated 27 July 2017
Geneva, 26 Jul (D. Ravi Kanth) -- The World Trade Organization Director-General,
Roberto Azevedo, was taken to task on Tuesday (25 July) by developing
countries for flouting the mandates of the Doha Work Program and for
adopting questionable procedures and practices, such as Heads of Delegations
(HoD) meetings, in his efforts to advance new issues by the backdoor,
several trade envoys told SUNS.
There were some particularly hard-hitting remarks by India and Uganda
at the informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC),
held after two years, over Azevedo's free-wheeling tactics and his
efforts and that of some WTO officials to promote and advance some
new issues and agenda of a few developed countries.
Several countries - India, Uganda, and the African Group among others
- reminded the director general - who is also the chair for the TNC,
established under the Doha work program, that he has no mandate to
convene HoD meetings for negotiating issues.
Azevedo's convening of an informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting
followed by an informal heads of delegations meeting on Tuesday was
apparently to facilitate the United States to make a statement at
the HoD meeting but not at the informal TNC meeting, to which it remains
opposed, according to a trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
The developing countries emphasized the centrality of the Doha Development
Agenda negotiations, and suggested that the DG or his secretariat
are violating the agreed ministerial mandates by canvassing for new
issues such as electronic commerce, disciplines for micro, small and
They cautioned the Director General that failure to adopt and follow
credible and well-established practices as per the ministerial mandates
is leading to erosion of credibility of the trade body.
On the issue of informal HoD meeting, India's new trade envoy, Ambassador
J S Deepak said "our understanding is that a forum for negotiations
can only be created by the decision of the Ministerial Council,"
according to people present at the meeting.
Further, the mandate of the TNC, he said, "flows from the decision
of the Ministers in Doha in November, 2001."
"The TNC was set up to supervise the overall conduct of the negotiations
under the guidance of the General Council," India pointed out.
"The TNC, therefore, together with its (negotiating) bodies remains
the only negotiating forum at the WTO and no other parallel negotiating
forum can be created," India argued.
The DG in his capacity as Chair of the TNC is free to report to the
GC on his travels and meetings under the framework of the TNC, the
Indian ambassador continued.
India sought to know from the DG "the need for having an informal
HoDs to be chaired by him."
In a hard-hitting critique of the questionable practices adopted by
the DG, Uganda said, somewhat mockingly, that the DG must be congratulated
"for having reconvened the TNC after such a long time."
Uganda reminded members that the last meeting of the informal TNC
was held in January 2015. "In this time, two formal meetings
of the TNC were also convened, the last one being in July 2015, which
is two years today," Uganda said.
"Since then, no formal or informal meetings of the TNC had been
convened," Uganda pointed out.
Uganda raised three points on process issues. They include "Role
of Chair of the TNC"; "Mandate of TNC"; and "the
authority to create negotiating fora."
Reminding the director general that "the TNC was created by the
Fourth Session of the Ministerial Conference of the WTO under Para
46 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration," Uganda said there was
no immediate decision then on who would Chair the TNC.
Members "were torn between those who wanted the Director General,
and those who wanted the leadership to be from among representatives
of WTO Members," it pointed out.
"It was therefore agreed that the DG, as an exceptional arrangement,
be appointed in an ex officio capacity to chair the TNC, it being
understood that it does not create a PRECEDENT for the future,"
Uganda pointed to the mandate of the TNC by citing the first TNC meeting
in document TN/C/M/1. The chair of the GC, Ambassador Sergio Marchi
of Canada, had then clarified that "... The mandate for the TNC,
as for the negotiations as a whole, is that agreed by Ministers at
Doha in November 2001, and set out in their Ministerial Declaration
paragraphs 45 to 52 of that Declaration in particular, relate to the
TNC, which Ministers have established under the authority of the General
Council to supervise the overall conduct of the negotiations... that
is the mandate".
Uganda told the DG "that any moves to create a structure, or
forum, parallel to, and in competition with the TNC, as far as negotiations
are concerned, is inconsistent with the mandate of the TNC and the
social contract for which the holder of the Office of Director General
is bound by the membership to execute as Chair of the TNC."
It stressed that "the only contract that the Director General
has in as far as matters of Negotiations are concerned is, limited
to the TNC."
The director general, said Uganda, has no legal basis to expand or
limit his role. It pointedly asked Azevedo: "where does the DG
derive the authority to create this parallel structure, which is competing
against the TNC? Has the TNC outlived its usefulness? Have the negotiations
which were mandated been concluded. Have we agreed to wind up the
Uganda further explained that in its view "the right to create
fora for negotiations has been clearly spelt out in Article III. 2
of the Marrakesh Agreement."
The Marrakesh Agreement, according to Uganda, says "the WTO may
also provide a forum for further negotiations among its Members concerning
their MULTILATERAL TRADE RELATIONS... as may be DECIDED by the MINISTERIAL
"As we understand, there has been no such Ministerial Decision
to create a structure counter to the TNC," Uganda maintained.
It quoted "para 34 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration"
that says "while we concur that officials should prioritize work
where results have not yet been achieved, SOME wish to identify and
discuss other issues for negotiation; others DO NOT. Any decision
to launch negotiations multilaterally on such issues would need to
be agreed by all Members".
Uganda told the DG that "unilaterally setting up this parallel
structure is an attempt at institutionalizing the disagreement in
Para 34 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration without authority of
Article III (2)."
Further, paragraph 34 "has no reporting requirement for the DG
on new issues," Uganda said.
More important, the paragraph 34 "does not mandate the creation
and or establishment of any new forum for negotiations," Uganda
"In fact, to do so would be an attempt at exceeding the authority
of the DG as laid down in Article 6 of the Marrakesh Agreement and
defeating the instruction, object and purpose for which Ministers
created the TNC in the first place," it maintained.
Further, what the director general is doing is "in contravention
of Article 6(4) of the Marrakesh Agreement" which requires that
the "The responsibilities of the Director-General and of the
staff of the Secretariat shall be exclusively international in character...
They shall refrain from any action, which might adversely reflect
on their position as international officials".
While acknowledging there were instances where the DG undertook to
convene Heads of Delegations meeting before the Doha Round, Uganda
said "such meetings were convened (at that time) with the express
agreement of the members."
Uganda argued that "a Director General in his capacity as chair
of the TNC is free to report on the various travels and meetings under
the framework of the TNC."
"There is no need for creating another forum without following
due process," it maintained.
"Further, every member has a right to speak on any issue of national
interest to them within the TNC [and] it is the duty of the other
members to debate and either agree or not with any suggestions,"
"This is why this is called a member driven Organization and
all of this is a function of negotiations," Uganda said.
In conclusion, Uganda said "we are at a critical juncture within
this Organization where it will matter in the history of the future,
on why a rules-based organization elected to proceed by setting aside
a critical part of its mode of operation that has defined its negotiating
"As the weakest and most vulnerable members of this Organisation,
the only protection we have in this Organisation is the protection
afforded by rules, which have variously been etched in our fabric
as Agreements, Ministerial Decisions, and Declarations and or Mandates,"
"If we do not defend the strong legal structure of this Organization,
as we acknowledged in Nairobi; then slowly by slowly all small, less
powerful, and poor delegations will lose the voice and protection
of such rules," Uganda said.
The questionable practices adopted without proper TNC meeting have
led to a sustained "push" for proposals in complete disregard
of established rules and procedures and also without an explicit mandate,"
It pointed to "a renaming of divisions in this Organization,
in complete disregard of the object, purpose and spirit of Paragraph
1(g) of the July Framework."
"We have witnessed some members of the Secretariat engage in
attempted interpretation of Multilateral Agreements... We have witnessed
some members of the Secretariat prepare papers and offer interviews
to support one point of view against another as though they were surrogate
proponents," Uganda maintained.
Uganda asked why "the Secretariat did not make any presentations
in defense of the Structural Transformation and Industrialization
of Africa in line with Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want." The
Secretariat also never spoke "in defense of Pubic Stock Holding
for Food Security Purposes or the SSM."
"It is therefore our noble duty to raise these systemic concerns
and request the Secretariat to exercise maximum restraint and show
neutrality in line with the WTO's international character," Uganda
"We therefore do not support any attempts at creating structures
and or fora without an explicit mandate and would support further
consultations on this issue going forward preferably under the auspices
of the General Council," Uganda maintained. +