TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (June 07/22)

26 June 2007

"G90 Plus" developing countries issue Declaration on Doha talks

On the same day the G$ meeting in Potsdam closed in failure, a large alliance of developing countries calling themselves the G90-Plus adopted a Development Declaration which they issued at a press conference at the WTO.

The Declaration asserted the importance of taking the views of the majority of countries into account in decision-making, and that the Doha Round proposals must be judged by the yardsticks of development.

Critical issues for developing countries have been marginalised or left behind as the negotiations proceeded. They warned that WTO members should not be rushed into agreements because "content cannot be sacrificed for timelines" and "it is more important to get the agreements right than meet deadlines."

The Declaration also set out the positions of the alliance in various issues.

The G90 Plus comprises the ACP, Africa and LDC Groups and Bolivia and Venezuela.

Below is a report of the Declaration.

With best wishes
Martin Khor

"G90 Plus" developing countries issue Declaration on Doha talks

By Martin Khor (TWN), Geneva 21 June 

Major groupings representing a majority of developing countries in the WTO on Thursday issued a Development Declaration warning that development concerns have been left behind in the rush to agree to a deal in the Doha Round.

The alliance of groups and countries, calling themselves the G90-Plus, said that the multilateral system in the WTO cannot be a rubber stamp to legitimise decisions made by a few, referring to the G4 (US, EU, Brazil and India), whose Ministers have been meeting in Potsdam, Germany.

They also summarised their positions and proposals on several issues of the Doha negotiating agenda, including agriculture, NAMA, services, rules, and TRIPS.

The "G90 Plus" comprises the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) Group, the Africa Group and the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, and Bolivia and Venezuela.

A press conference announcing the Declaration was held this afternoon, and was addressed by Ambassador Gail Mathurin of Jamaica (who chairs the ACP Group), Ambassador Love Mtesa of Zambia (who chairs the LDC Group), and a representative of Uganda (which chairs the Africa Group).

Amb. Mathurin said that the G90 was a combination of important developing country groupings that had come together previously and now to take common positions on the Doha negotiations. As a few other countries had also joined in the new Declaration, the alliance could be termed G90-Plus.

She stressed the importance that the views of the majority of developing countries be reflected in the draft modalities that are now being prepared by the Chairs, and in the intense negotiating process in the coming weeks.

The G90 Plus document is entitled "Declaration on Development Concerns and Issues in the Current WTO Negotiations".

According to the Declaration, "it is imperative if the Round is to be completed that the concerns and issues that matter to a majority of developing countries are dealt with satisfactorily and that our development interests are truly addressed and promoted."

It added that critical issues for developing countries have been marginalised or left behind as the negotiations proceeded. They warned that WTO members should not be rushed into agreements because "content cannot be sacrificed for timelines" and "it is more important to get the agreements right than meet deadlines."

The Declaration dealt with both the negotiating process and the substance of the negotiations.

On the process, the Declaration stressed four principles: participation and transparency, the need for full and not partial modalities, balance between obligations and benefits and less than full reciprocity.

On participation, the G90 Plus said that a major positive feature of the multilateral trading system is the principle that it allows all trading partners the opportunity to participate in making the rules. The legitimacy of the WTO rests on whether this principle is adhered to.

"We have been concerned that the recent negotiating process has been less than transparent and participatory. Although it is widely known that important negotiations are taking place in the G4 process, the vast majority of members have little or no knowledge of the progress and content of different stages of the negotiations.

"Although two developing countries are part of the G4, we cannot expect them to carry the responsibility of representing the views and positions of all developing countries.

"We have been told that the Geneva multilateral process is central, but without knowledge of the political or technical aspects of the G4 negotiations, it is not possible for the majority of members to prepare themselves or provide inputs.

"We are concerned that members may be faced with texts arising from small plurilateral processes and requested to consider them at very short notice and to adopt them for the sake of the system. As we are the majority of members of the system, we have the right to know what is going on and to be given the opportunity to participate."

The G90 Plus thus called for a much more transparent and participatory overall process. "The multilateral process with full participation of all members in discussion and in preparing the drafts and final texts must be central. The multilateral system cannot be used to rubber stamp and legitimise the decisions made by a few members."

On the need for full modalities, the G90 Plus said that the Doha Work Programme outcome is a "Single Undertaking." All issues that are important to members must be considered in a balanced and equitable manner.

"The modalities and solutions for all issues therefore have to be considered and settled simultaneously," said the Declaration. "It is unfair to seek a deal first on so-called "core issues" and to promise that "other issues" be settled later.

"Firstly, it is a matter of subjective interpretation what the "core issues" are because different members have different priorities. Secondly, there is a concern that "other issues" will be left aside after the so-called "core issues" are settled."

The Declaration said that S&D and Implementation Issues were once considered priority issues, but after Cancun they were not included in the so-called four key issues to resolve, and they have fallen aside, despite promises that they are equally important.

"We therefore cannot accept the concept that there will be "partial modalities" to be settled first (for instance, by end of July 2007), with only some issues included, while excluding others," said the G90 Plus.

"Our position is that any settlement of modalities has to be on the whole range of issues of importance to the membership. There has to be full modalities."

The issues that they wished to include are SDT; Implementation Issues and Concerns; duty free and quota free market access for LDCs; special concerns of Small and Vulnerable Economies; commodities; tariff escalation; long-standing preferences; cotton; flexibilities for developing countries in agriculture including special products and special safeguard mechanism; special treatment for countries with ceiling bindings in agriculture; special treatment for LDCs and net food-importing developing countries relating to elimination of export credits; operationalisation of the "less than full reciprocity" principle; adequate flexibilities for developing countries in NAMA; special treatment for countries with less than 35% bound tariffs in NAMA (para 6 countries).

The Declaration also stated that for developing country members, the level of obligations must be commensurate with the level of benefits to be obtained in the Round. There should not be a situation in which developing countries are asked to undertake obligations which are not matched by the same level of benefits, causing a net loss.

"For developing countries, there are serious concerns that the Round must not result in de-industrialisation or in more import surges in agriculture that adversely affect food security, farmers' livelihoods and rural development. This would defeat the purpose of the development objectives of the Round."

The G90 Plus said that many developing countries are unable to take advantage of opportunities arising from increased market access due to limited supply capacity.

"Many studies have concluded that most developing countries will gain little or nothing and many will be losers from existing proposals put forward by developed countries. These countries should therefore not be asked to undertake obligations that result in costs and losses which are not made up for by benefits."

The G90 Plus statement also called for the principle of less than full reciprocity (as affirmed in the Doha Declaration) to be respected. Developing countries should undertake less obligations than developed countries (for example, as measured by percentage reduction in tariffs).

Moreover, the principle gives developing countries the right "not be expected, in the course of trade negotiations, to make contributions which are inconsistent with their individual development, financial and trade needs."

The Declaration also stated 32 key positions of the G90 Plus on the substance of negotiations on agriculture, NAMA, services, SDT and implementation issues, rules, TRIPS and trade facilitation. It supports many of the positions and proposals of the groupings and individual developing countries in this coalition.

On agriculture, the Declaration said that developed countries must commit to real and effective cuts in their overall trade distorting domestic support (OTDS), combined with effective disciplines and an effective monitoring and surveillance mechanism to avoid box-shifting.

The final maximum allowed level of OTDS in developed countries must be substantially and significantly below the present applied levels. There must also be new disciplines for the use of the Green Box subsidies by developed countries to ensure they are really non trade-distorting.

The G90 Plus supported the ACP proposal on agriculture market access, and the proposals of developing country Members with tariff ceilings, LDCs, and small and vulnerable economies.

On NAMA, the Declaration insisted that the principle of "less than full reciprocity" is adhered to in the modalities and the outcome. "We will not accept any modalities and outcome of negotiations that will lead to de-industrialisation in developing countries," it added.

The G90 Plus also supported the positions of the countries under paragraph 6 of the July 2004 framework on NAMA, the small and vulnerable economies, the LDCs and the NAMA 11 group of developing countries.

The Declaration stressed the need to fully address the issue of erosion of preferences, and meaningful trade solutions, both in agriculture and NAMA.

In services, the Declaration insisted that developing countries should not be subjected to pressure to make offers and there should be no attempts to re-introduce any forms of bench-marking, or use of guidelines to apply such pressures.

GATS Disciplines on Domestic Regulation should not constrain the ability of developing countries to regulate services, and the draft rules must be improved.

"We fully support proposals for provisions in GATS which exclude or limit the applicability of GATS rules and commitments with regard to water services and other essential services," added the Declaration.

The outcome on special and differential treatment and implementation issues should not be left to the end of the negotiations, but be part of the core modalities to be settled at the same time as other important issues.

Rules on Regional Trade Agreements should allow developing countries to have adequate development flexibilities, including non-reciprocal commitments and the SDT principle in their FTAs with developed countries.

The G90 Plus also supported the TRIPS proposal of developing countries on disclosure and benefit sharing in relation to patent applications involving genetic resources and traditional knowledge.

They also reiterated their commitment in the review of Article 27.3b of the TRIPS Agreement, including the treatment of patenting of micro-organisms and the sui generis system in relation to plant varieties.

(A more detailed report on the Declaration will appear in a future issue of SUNS.)