Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec17/15)
12 December 2017
Third World Network
DG promised open-ended meets, but "Green Rooms" galore
Published in SUNS #8594 dated 12 December 2017
Buenos Aires, 11 Dec (D. Ravi Kanth) - Contrary to repeated promises
of open-ended meetings and no closed-door green room sessions with
select countries at the Buenos Aires ministerial conference (MC11),
the facilitator for agriculture, Ms Amina Mohamed, has convened a
green room meeting to discuss domestic support and the permanent solution
for public stockholding programs for food security, a source told
Ms Mohamed, currently the cabinet secretary in charge of foreign affairs
in Kenya, has called in trade ministers from six countries (the United
States, the European Union, China, India, Brazil, and Australia) to
meet at the Hilton hotel, the venue for the WTO's eleventh ministerial
The green room meeting, according to the source who preferred not
to be identified, was convened because of Brazil's demand for linking
an outcome on domestic support with the permanent solution for public
stockholding programs for food security.
Meanwhile, the Argentinean chair of MC11 is proposing to nominate
a facilitator for investment facilitation today but many developing
countries are expected to shoot it down.
Brazil wants a payment for the permanent solution for public stockholding
programs under the dubious slogan of parity between three issues -
the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security,
outcome on overall trade-distorting support, and cotton - in agriculture.
The European Union and Australia are supporting Brazil's demand, said
a South American trade official who asked not to be identified.
"Out of six members, three - Brazil, Australia, and the European
Union - support the linkage between domestic support and the permanent
solution," the source added.
While the United States is expected to remain silent during the meeting,
China and India are expected to reject any linkage between the domestic
support and the permanent solution for public stockholding programs
for food security.
China and India have called for the elimination of the aggregate measurement
of support (AMS), the most trade- distorting domestic support in industrialized
countries, as a prerequisite for starting work on the domestic support.
The EU, Brazil, and Australia had rejected the China-India demand
for eliminating the AMS in the industrialized countries, saying it
is not practicable.
QUESTIONS BY FISHERIES FACILITATOR
Meanwhile, ahead of the meeting with trade ministers on fisheries
subsidies today (December 11), the facilitator for overseeing the
discussions, Ms Kamina Johnson Smith (of Jamaica), circulated questions
on subsidies for vessels contributing to illegal, unreported, and
unregulated (IUU) fishing.
In a questionnaire sent to ministers on Sunday, she asked whether
they can agree on a "forward work programme" based on draft
textual positions of members contained in two documents.
Minister Smith sought to know how should "a possible interim
outcome on IUU-related subsidies" reflect "the standard
that should be applied with respect to IUU activities - the existing
international standard, or national law implementing that standard?"
She asked whether ministers can respond to "the concerns of developing
and LDC Members that lack reporting and regulatory capacity in their
own waters, and thus consider themselves to be at risk of violating
a prohibition in respect of unreported and unregulated fishing when
they provide subsidies to fishers in those waters".
"By limiting the geographic scope of the interim outcome for
all Members to waters outside their own jurisdictions?", Minister
Ministers must also address whether they can respond "by allowing
for Members to defer application of a prohibition in respect of waters
within their jurisdictions until the acquisition of the necessary
regulatory and reporting capacity", Minister Smith said.
She sought to know what "additional" transparency can be
"envisaged for the interim period before definitive outcomes
According to the process agreed for the Buenos Aires meeting at the
Trade Negotiations Committee and the last General Council meeting
in Geneva, the director-general said there will be only open-ended
meetings without any green room sessions.
[In a comment emailed and tweeted to global media and civil society
groups, Deborah James, coordinator of the OWINFS (Our World Is Not
For Sale) network, said: "So in MC11, there are (to be) 5 facilitated
sessions (on e-commerce, development, fishing subsidies, services
and agriculture) from tomorrow (11 December), consecutively for one
hour each on particular questions. But they will be formalistic with
ministers making 3-minute remarks each, but not negotiations. These
will be in "green-room" formats in the evening until mid-night
each night, breaking Mr. Azevedo's promise at Geneva Trade Negotiations
Committee (before MC11), when he said: "... clearly openness,
transparency and inclusiveness will be important... and always be
a bottom-up process." Azevedo had added that at Buenos Aires
while he will "hold consultations where needed... I will not
convene closed-door negotiating meetings... we will do everything
we can to ensure that the meeting is open, transparent, inclusive
- and orderly." SUNS]
Meanwhile, the informal group of developing countries as well as a
group of Latin American and Caribbean countries have ensured the erasing
of the Doha work program from their respective ministerial decisions.
There is no mention of either the Doha work program or the Doha Development
Agenda in both these ministerial decisions.
Trade ministers from the group of Latin American and Caribbean countries
have called for working towards "a multilateral trading system
that is fair and equitable, based on rules and on the principles of
non-discrimination, transparency, inclusiveness, and the centrality
of development as a fundamental objective".
In a move to oppose the United States which refused to accord primacy
to the WTO in the multilateral trading system, the group of Latin
American and Caribbean countries, in a joint communique on Friday
(December 8), stressed "the importance of the WTO as the organization
of the multilateral system that serves as a forum for agreeing on
disciplines and commitments aimed at reducing obstacles to international
trade and ensuring a level playing field for all, thereby contributing
to the economic growth and development of nations."
"The relevance of the WTO dispute settlement system, which provides
all Members, whatever the size of their economy, with access to a
mechanism for settling situations that affect trade on the basis of
the WTO Agreements," the Latin American and Caribbean countries
maintained, emphasising that "it is in the interest of all WTO
Members, and in particular the developing and least-developed economies,
to guarantee that the mechanism remains effective."
Without naming the US, the trade ministers of Latin American and Caribbean
countries urged "members to ensure that the dispute settlement
system continues to function smoothly and to fill the vacancies in
the Appellate Body as quickly as possible, without linking them to
other procedural issues."
They urged the US and other countries "to contribute, through
their decisions, to the success of the Eleventh Ministerial Conference,
maintaining the principles that gave birth to the Organization, preserving
the common interest and cooperation, and helping to overcome obstacles,
protectionism and the distortions prevalent in international trade
in order to ensure equity in the system and social justice at the
In their communique, the informal group of 120 developing countries
in which India, China, and South Africa are members, merely "reaffirm[ed]
the principles and objectives set out in the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing
the WTO, and commit to strengthen the rule-based multilateral trading
"We firmly believe that a strong, rule-based multilateral trading
system is a cornerstone of the global economy and provides stability
for international trade," the informal group of developing countries
The IGDCs (the informal group of developing countries) said they "recognize
the need for all to benefit from the increased opportunities and welfare
gains that the multilateral trading system generates."
They vowed to "safeguard and strengthen the core values and basic
principles - rules-based, open, equitable, transparent, non-discriminatory
and inclusive - of the WTO, and commit to enhance the relevance of
They pledged "to strengthen the multilateral trading system to
provide a strong impetus to inclusive prosperity and to respond to
the specific development needs of developing country Members, in particular
the least- developed country Members", emphasizing "development
as a core objective in the WTO, and reaffirm that the principle of
special and differential treatment shall remain integral to the organization,
recognising that the majority of WTO Members are developing country
"We reaffirm our commitment to fully implement the Decision on
Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Programme
on Least-Developed and Net Food-Importing Developing Countries, including
differential treatment in line with the Marrakesh Decision in the
context of the agriculture negotiations, in recognition of the challenges
that these Members continue to face," the IGDCs said.
In another development at the inaugural press conference, Argentina's
minister Susana Malcorra, who is chairing the ministerial meeting,
defended her government's decision to block the participation of non-governmental
organizations on security grounds. She said the decision was taken
according to procedures announced by her foreign minister months ago.
According to a source in Buenos Aires, the Argentinean government
denied the visas to non-governmental organizations based on the advice
it had received from the WTO about several non-governmental organizations.
[On Saturday, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell had told at his press briefing
that the WTO disagreed with Argentina's decision. "We didn't
have the same perspective, but we're now moving on," he told
journalists. However, despite his or Argentina's hopes of burying
the controversy and "moving on," the issue continued to
reverberate across global public opinion, raising questions about
the legitimacy of the WTO and any decisions MC11 might reach.
[Reacting to Rockwell's remarks, Deborah James, coordinator of the
OWINFS (Our World Is Not For Sale) network, said: "We have to
address the banning of civil society from the Ministerial. We still
have peaceful advocacy groups ... including two persons actually deported
in the middle of the night. None of these organizations (and persons)
have any history whatsoever of violence. Instead, they are CSOs with
a long history of advocacy for a just global economic system. They
were banned for their political views and beliefs. But we see the
International Chamber of Commerce, DHL, UPS, the World Economic Forum,
PHARMA, the European Services Forum, and other corporations and corporate
lobby groups are permitted. Keith Rockwell said "Now we are moving
on." But the banning of accredited participants to an international
meeting of a multilateral organization de-legitimizes that meeting...
DG Azevedo has unfortunately failed to display the required leadership
to guarantee the integrity of the Ministerial. And we condemn this
political repression by the Argentine government." SUNS]
At the Sunday pre-inaugural press conference, the WTO director-general
Roberto Azevedo said the United States Trade Representative Ambassador
Robert Lighthizer must show "political flexibility" at the
Buenos Aires ministerial meeting so as to ensure "the importance
of the system for the world and for the global economy."
Azevedo said "what he would tell Lighthizer in Buenos Aires will
not be different from what he tells other trade ministers."
He said he would tell Lighthizer "we have to recognize the importance
of the system for the world and for the global economy and the importance
of this ministerial organization and the importance of the future
work program of the WTO."
"I will ask [him] for political flexibility," he said, suggesting
that problems are encountered at the WTO from one country or other
from time to time - which is not new. "I avoid finger-pointing,"
he said, suggesting that members have to overcome problems collectively.
As regards the US decision to block the appointment of new members
at the Appellate Body, Azevedo said "the situation is an extreme
concern" as there is a "paralysis" of the selection
process to the AB. Members have to overcome this problem soon so as
to ensure a quick solution to the issue.
Azevedo was shifting the blame for loss of jobs because of the rapid
changes and developments in technology.
He said it is technology which is contributing to loss of jobs and
not global trade, adding that this problem has to be countered not
through protectionism but devising appropriate policies.
UNCTAD's Trade and Development Report has demolished the technology-led
arguments, saying that the fundamental changes that are taking place
are due to global trade liberalization which has created hundreds
of millions of losers and very few winners. The problem of inequality
is an offshoot of trade liberalization, UNCTAD's latest report had