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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Sept17/11)
21 September 2017
Third World Network

   
North declares war on S&DT and improvements at WTO
Published in SUNS #8534 dated 19 September 2017


Geneva, 18 Sep (D. Ravi Kanth) - The United States and other major developed countries seem to have declared a war against proposals for specific improvements in special and differential flexibilities as demanded by a large majority of developing and poorest countries at the upcoming World Trade Organization's eleventh ministerial conference in Buenos Aires from 10 December, several trade negotiators told SUNS.

At a meeting of the Doha negotiating body on development issues last Thursday (14 September), the US, the European Union, Japan, Australia, and Canada among others aggressively rejected a comprehensive proposal from the Group of 90 countries - the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) group, the African Group, and the LDCs (least-developed countries) group - for a "fruitful outcome" on specific improvements in special and differential flexibilities at Buenos Aires.

In their nine-page restricted Job document (Job/Dev/47), the three groups demanded that "as a first step towards achieving the target of paragraph 44 of Doha Ministerial Declaration," an outcome on specific proposals for overcoming the constraints "in promoting much needed industrialization, structural transformation and diversification of their economies for raising the standard of living of their population, which is the prime objective of the WTO, and integration into the multilateral trading system."

The G90 countries called for "constructive discussions" from WTO members on their proposals "with a view to have a fruitful outcome during upcoming Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) to be held in Buenos Aires."

They said their initial proposal contained 25 agreement-specific proposals.

As a first step towards an outcome at Buenos Aires, the G90 members said they prioritized ten proposals so as to enable members to complete negotiations during the remaining two and a half months. They called for specific improvements in the following agreements:

I. WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures,

II. Article XVIII of GATT 1994 (provisions A and C),

III. Article XVIII of GATT 1994 (Section B) - the BOP provisions applicable to developing countries,

IV. Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary measures,

V. Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade,

VI. Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures,

VII. Agreement on Customs Valuation,

VIII. 1979 Decision on Differential and More Favourable Treatment, Reciprocity and Fuller Participation of Developing Countries,

IX. Transfer of Technology,

X. LDC accession.

Uganda introduced the proposal for improving several provisions in the TRIMS (Trade-Related Investment Measures) Agreement.

Uganda said "notwithstanding Articles 4 and 5 of the TRIMs Agreement and Articles III and XI of GATT, Members agree that developing countries shall be free to deviate temporarily from the provisions of Article 2 of the TRIMs Agreement, and introduce new investment measures related to trade in goods" in accordance with various provisions.

The developing countries, for example, can notify measures that shall remain effective for an initial period of about 15 years or more for accelerating their industrialization and thereby achieve socio-economic transformation.

The other provisions include upgrading and modernizing the domestic manufacturing capabilities of small and medium enterprises for employment generation and promoting domestic manufacturing capabilities in high value-added sectors or technology intensive sectors. The improvements are also aimed at accelerating domestic competition and/or correcting restrictive business practices, according to the proposal.

Further, "LDCs shall be allowed to introduce and maintain measures that deviate from their obligations under the TRIMs Agreement" and "members agree that least-developed country Members shall not be obliged to implement, apply or enforce the provisions of the TRIMS Agreement as long as they remain LDCs," it argued.

South Africa, which spoke on improvements in the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, called for specific changes in the two agreements. The changes include:

1. In pursuance with the condition set out in Paragraph 5(d) of Annex B of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures, reasonable time for making comments on any SPS measure notified by the developed country members shall be understood to mean at least 180 days for least developed country Members and developing country Members facing capacity constraints before the adoption of the measure, which shall commence with the circulation of the notification by the WTO Secretariat. Upon request, a longer period of time shall be granted for least developed country Members.

2. A developed country Member proposing an SPS measure shall consult directly, at an early stage, with any least developed country Member or developing country Member facing capacity constraints exporting a product that would be covered by the proposed SPS measure in order to take into account the special needs of those countries for effectively implementing Article 10.1 of the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures.

Besides, South Africa suggested several other changes "where the trade of a least-developed country Member or developing country Member facing capacity constraints is or will be adversely affected by a proposed or final sanitary or phytosanitary measure taken by a developed country Member."

The changes also include that "longer time-frames for compliance with the measure shall be accorded to products of interest to least developed country Members and developing country members facing capacity constraints so as to maintain opportunities for their exports."

As regards changes to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, the G90 countries sought that developed countries shall "provide developing and LDC members facing capacity constraints at least a 180 day comment period before the adoption of the measure."

Further, where a developing or LDC member will be adversely affected by a proposed final regulation or standard taken by a developed country, the proposal called for application of the following procedures:

i. Longer time-frames for compliance with the measure shall be accorded to products of interest to developing and least developed country Members facing capacity constraints so as to maintain opportunities for their exports. The phrase reasonable interval referred to in paragraph 12 of Article 2 of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade shall be understood to mean a period of not less than 18 months.

ii. Where investments are required in order for exporting developing and least developed country Member facing capacity constraints to fulfil a technical regulation or standard proposed or applied by a developed country Member, the developed country member shall provide financial and technical assistance required for compliance with the technical regulation or standard.

On behalf of the G90 countries, Egypt spoke on the need to improve specific provisions in the Article XVIII concerning the balance of payment (BOP) provisions for achieving developmental objectives during the industrialization.

Cameroon highlighted on improvements in the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures for promoting industrialization and economic development in developing and poorest countries.

Several members of the G90 also took the floor to address issues in the Customs Valuation Agreement as well as changes needed in the TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) agreement for encouraging international cooperation on and access to technology-transfer and innovation.

Bangladesh addressed the improvements sought in the LDC accession which is currently burdened with onerous conditions that are much more that what developed countries have in their schedules.

During the meeting, India supported the proposals for improving the SPS and TBT measures, TRIMS provisions, and changes in the subsidies and countervailing measures.

But the response from the major developed countries was extremely hostile and threatening, said an African trade negotiator, who asked not to be quoted.

The US, for example, said it will not engage in any discussions on the improvements demanded in the specific covered agreements. The US said the proposal is not any basis for further work. It warned the G90 countries that their continued attempts to bring the proposal in one form or the other will not help, the negotiator said.

Other developed countries - the EU, Japan, Australia, and Canada - ruled out any change in the covered agreements as demanded by the G90 members without concrete evidence from the proponents as to how the existing provisions are hampering their industrialization, the negotiator said.

In conclusion, it is clear that the developed countries which are embarking on negotiations for e-commerce and MSMEs (micro, small and medium sized enterprises) at Buenos Aires are not prepared to address the outstanding/unresolved core developmental issues in the Doha Work Program, several negotiators said.

[The stand of the developed countries on the S&DT issue and improvements appears to be challenging the very fundamental basis on which some of the principles on which the Economic and Social provisions of the UN Charter, the Havana Charter and its trade policy part applied provisionally as GATT 1947, Part IV of GATT formulated by the GATT 1947 in an effort to meet and counter the convening of UNCTAD, the Marrakesh Treaty, and the Doha Ministerial decisions and work programme. This stance of the developed countries jeopardises the multilateral trading system, and its main beneficiaries hitherto, namely the United States, Europe and other developed countries. SUNS]

 


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