Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov17/06)
6 November 2017
Third World Network
US attempts to use wrecking ball against WTO
Published in SUNS #8566 dated 2 November 2017
Geneva, 1 Nov (D. Ravi Kanth) - The United States on Tuesday (31 October)
indicated as to how it is going to put the Doha Round of trade negotiations
to bed, after circulating a proposal on mandatory transparency provisions
and notification requirements in all the World Trade Organization
agreements that would amount to altering the rights and obligations
of members, trade envoys told SUNS.
[A mere ministerial decision altering the rights and obligations of
members may not even be valid. The WTO treaty makes clear that such
an alteration in rights and obligations could only be done through
the Amendment procedure, and where (as in this case) it affects the
most-favoured-nation principle, it has to get the acceptance of all
the WTO members. SUNS]
At an informal meeting of the Doha rules negotiating body on Tuesday,
the US intervened a few times to suggest that they do not agree to
the ongoing textual discussions on fisheries subsidies, indicating
that they could possibly reject it during the week, said a fisheries
negotiator from a developing country.
The US pointedly told the chair for Doha rules negotiations, Ambassador
Wayne McCook of Jamaica, that they don't accept the textual discussion
that members are having as the basis for outcomes on harmful fisheries
The US also demanded for the first time that the discussion on harmful
fisheries subsidies must include fishing activities in inland waters
as well as aquaculture. The US disagreed with a proposal from Guatemala
on issues concerning territorial jurisdiction in the ongoing discussion
on harmful subsidies.
The US referred to its proposal on transparency notifications on fisheries
subsidies which is a part of the comprehensive seven-page proposal
it submitted to the General Council as well as the Council for Trade
in Goods on Monday (30 October).
The US proposal on strengthening transparency notifications on fisheries
subsidies, for example, would require, among others, that each Member
shall notify as part of its regular notifications under Article 25.3
of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures the following
information to the extent possible:
(a) program name;
(b) legal authority for the program;
(c) name of recipient;
(d) vessel name and identification number;
(e) catch data by species in the fishery for which the subsidy is
(f) status of the fish stocks in the fishery for which the subsidy
is provided (overfished, fully fished, or under-fished);
(g) fleet capacity in the fishery for which the subsidy is provided;
(h) conservation and management measures in place for the relevant
fish stock; and
(i) total imports and exports per species.
The US says "that each Member shall also provide, to the extent
possible, information in relation to other subsidies that the Member
grants or maintains to persons engaged in fishing or fishing related
activities that are not covered by paragraph 12, in particular aquaculture
and fuel subsidies."
It has set out how transparency and comprehensive notifications must
be complied with in other agreements failing which punitive triggers
will be applied.
A draft ministerial decision on enhanced transparency provisions and
notification requirements, circulated by the US, suggested for the
first time how a member failing to comply with the transparency provisions
will be denied access to the WTO as well as other rights availed of
by that erring member.
Effectively, the transparency provisions and notifications cover all
the regular committees of the WTO.
"The US assessment is that by using the regular committee route
and by using the ministerial decision, including in areas such as
subsidies and countervailing measures, they are creating nuclear triggers
which will not only add to members' obligations - where there are
currently none - but more importantly ensuring that the current text
on fisheries subsides which has references to the Doha work program
and the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration is put to bed once and for
all," said a trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
"Consequently, there will be no ministerial decision and even
if there is one that will also include the US proposal on intrusive
transparency notifications which have nothing to do with the Doha
work program," the envoy suggested.
In short, the US has taken the oxygen out of the Doha work program
by coming out with a punitive proposal on transparency notifications
that amount to altering the rights and obligations of members, the
The US proposal on transparency notifications covers the following
i. Agreement on Agriculture;
ii. Agreement on Implementation of Article VI of the GATT 1994 (Anti-Dumping);
iii. Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures;
iv. Agreement on Safeguards;
v. Understanding on the Interpretation of Article XVII of the GATT
1994 (State Trading);
vi. Agreement on Implementation of Article VII of the GATT 1994 (Customs
vii. Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures;
viii. Agreement on Rules of Origin;
ix. Agreement on Preshipment Inspection;
x. Decision on Notification Procedures for Quantitative Restrictions
xi. Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures;
xii. Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures;
xiii. Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.
The draft ministerial decision instructs "appropriate committees,
working groups or other bodies, such as the Working Group on Notification
Obligations and Procedures, to assess and report annually to their
designated supervisory bodies on Members' compliance with notification
obligations under the agreements, take appropriate steps to reinforce
compliance with the notification requirements under such agreements
(for example, by carrying out notification workshops), and to make
recommendations, as appropriate, on means by which greater compliance
can be encouraged and achieved."
The US draft decision "instructs the Trade Policy Review Body
to ensure that beginning in 2018 all trade policy reviews include
a specific, standardized focus on the Member's compliance with its
notification obligations under the agreements."
Further, it says "at any time, Members are encouraged to provide
a counter notification on behalf of the delinquent Member concerning
notification obligations under the agreements."
The US argues that "beginning in 2018, a Member that fails to
provide a required notification under an agreement listed in paragraph
1(b) by the relevant deadline or has failed to provide any prior required
notification shall submit to the relevant committee by 1 November
2018 and by 1 November of each subsequent year an explanation for
the delay, the anticipated time-frame for its notification, and any
elements of a partial notification that a Member can produce to limit
any delay in transparency."
"If a Member fails to provide the complete notification within
one year of the deadline, the Secretariat shall research the matter
and, in consultation with the relevant delinquent Member, provide
a notification on its behalf," the US maintained.
More important, the US proposed a set of administration measures "if
a Member fails to provide the complete notification within one year
of the deadline and the delinquent Member fails to cooperate with
the Secretariat so that the Secretariat is unable to obtain enough
information to provide a notification."
The administrative measures that "shall apply to the delinquent
"(a) After one but less than two full years from a notification
deadline, the following measures shall be applied to the delinquent
Member at the beginning of the second year:
"(i) representatives of the delinquent Member cannot be nominated
to preside over WTO bodies;
"(ii) documentation will not be provided to delinquent Member
delegations in Geneva nor to the Member's capital;
"(iii) the delinquent Member's access to the WTO Members' web
site will be discontinued;
"(iv) the Director-General will contact annually the Minister
of the delinquent Member responsible for the WTO, or any other official
at the appropriate level emphasizing the question of notifications;
"(v) the Secretariat will report annually to the Council on Trade
in Goods on the status of the delinquent Member's notifications; and
"(vi) the delinquent Member will be subject to specific reporting
at the General Council meetings.
"(b) After two but less than three full years following a notification
deadline, the following measures shall be applied to the Member at
the beginning of the third year, in addition to the measures in paragraph
"(i) the Member will be designated as an Inactive Member;
"(ii) the Inactive Member will be denied access to training or
technical assistance other than that necessary to meet their WTO Article
XIV:2 obligations; and
"(iii) when the Inactive Member takes the floor in the General
Council it will be identified as such."
The US said that "at the beginning of each year when measures
will be applied, the Director-General will notify the Ministers of
the Members responsible for the WTO of the administrative measures
being applied with respect to the delinquent Member."
"Once the Member comes into compliance with its notification
requirements, the measures will cease to apply," the US maintained.
In conclusion, the US has assumed a role that corresponds to a "global
bully" which wants to apply nuclear triggers while blowing up
the Doha work program in flames in the run-up to the WTO's eleventh
ministerial conference in Buenos Aires beginning on 10 December, several
[As an Op-Ed on 31 October in the New York Times pointed out, the
US bullying on trade may have produced limited results in the early
1980s, when the US accounted for about 25 percent of world trade.
But now the US accounts only for 13 percent. The WTO thus may survive
a US withdrawal, though suffering grievous harm, while the US will
open itself to trade retaliatory actions, and US enterprises may find
their intellectual property rights, for example, franchising and trademarks
or patents, violated or transgressed and would be unable to respond.