Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct17/12)
19 October 2017
Third World Network
Consensus eludes trade ministers at Marrakesh
Published in SUNS #8553 dated 16 October 2017
Geneva, 13 Oct (D. Ravi Kanth) - The just-concluded informal trade
ministerial summit in Marrakesh on 10 October brought into sharp focus
the linkages between fisheries subsidies and improvements in the Doha
trade remedy rules, and between the permanent solution for public
stockholding programs and domestic support.
These issues are being targeted for outcomes at the World Trade Organization's
eleventh ministerial meeting (MC11) in Buenos Aires in December, participants
China and Russia conveyed that they would need an outcome on improvements
such as transparency and due process in the anti-dumping and countervailing
measures, along with a possible outcome on fisheries subsidies, especially
on the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The European Union insisted on a linkage between the permanent solution
for public stockholding (PSH) programs for food security and an outcome
on domestic support in agriculture.
However, India, China, South Africa, and Indonesia (on behalf of the
G-33 group of countries) flatly rejected any linkage between the permanent
solution for PSH programs and domestic support in agriculture, several
participants told SUNS.
The two-day Marrakesh meeting attended by more than 35 countries failed
to bring any consensus due to continued entrenched positions on agriculture,
fisheries subsidies, rules, electronic commerce, domestic regulation,
and investment facilitation among others.
The United States ploughed its own unilateral course by asking the
participants at Marrakesh to settle for a program of action for "reinvigorating"
the WTO by addressing five issues (see separate story).
The US also insisted that the Doha negotiations were over at Nairobi
(MC10 in 2015). It urged the participants to come to terms with the
fracture of the Doha negotiations once and for all.
The US also remained opposed to finalizing a ministerial declaration
at Buenos Aires.
But trade ministers from India, China, South Africa, and the coordinators
for the African Group, the ACP, and Cotton-four countries among others
said the Doha Work Program will continue until all outstanding issues
As regards tweaking the mandate for electronic commerce at Buenos
Aires, South Africa, India, and several other trade ministers from
developing countries stood their ground, insisting that they will
not accept any departure from the existing e-commerce work program
South Africa's trade minister Rob Davies issued a hard-hitting statement
against e-commerce at the ministers- only dinner on 9 October, according
to a trade minister who asked not to be quoted.
Morocco, on the advice of the WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo,
convened a dinner for ministers only on Monday to drum up support
for e-commerce. Rob Davies' strong opposition to e-commerce was voiced
at this dinner.
South Africa and the coordinator for the African Group as well as
India called for credible results for improving the special and differential
Without mentioning "differentiation" or "graduation",
the US suggested that members must grapple with the interaction between
trade and development.
The US statement was clearly aimed at introducing "differentiation"/"graduation"
among countries for availing the special and differential flexibilities
among developing countries.
At the end of the meeting, DG Azevedo issued a summary based on the
Azevedo made the following points:
i. The permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food
security remains the top priority. But there are still issues concerning
transparency, safeguards, and legal permanency to be addressed.
ii. An outcome on fisheries subsidies, especially on prohibiting IUU
(illegal, unreported, and unregulated) fishing. Azevedo said there
are still some issues like transparency that have to be addressed.
iii. He ruled out any outcome at Buenos Aires on the improvements
relating to transparency and due process in the anti-dumping and subsidy
investigations sought by China and Russia.
iv. On domestic support (DS) in agriculture, he said there are many
proposals on the table but an outcome is difficult. He said an incremental
outcome on DS is possible at Buenos Aires.
v. Azevedo said the Cotton-four countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali,
and Chad - will issue a proposal setting out the reduction commitments
in domestic support. But he did not say whether the issue will be
clinched at Buenos Aires.
vi. As regards the special safeguard mechanism for developing countries,
Azevedo said there is no chance of any outcome because it needs more
engagement, and long hours of work which ambassadors and negotiators
vii. He said no outcomes are possible on market access and other outstanding
issues in the export competition (pillar of agriculture).
viii. On electronic commerce, Azevedo said there are too many wide
gaps which are difficult to bridge at this juncture.
ix. Commenting on investment facilitation, which is an extremely divisive
issue, the director-general said the level of engagement is picking
up, but the subject is very far from any outcome at Buenos Aires.
x. On the improvements in domestic regulation for trade in services
as demanded by the European Union, Australia, and other members, the
director-general said while there are sharp differences there is considerable
engagement and a lot of support.
xi. On the improvements sought by the African Group of countries in
special and differential flexibilities, Azevedo ruled out any outcomes
at Buenos Aires because many of the issues would require political
xii. The director-general remained "deafeningly" silent
on the paralysis created by the US in the Dispute Settlement Body
even though many trade ministers highlighted the issue in their statements.
In short, the director-general issued an ambiguous report that did
not either adequately or fairly reflect the level of opposition against
domestic regulation, investment facilitation, and other issues.