Info Service on Finance and Development (Oct18/02)
22 October 2018
Third World Network
DG did not read report issued by WTO-IMF-WB at Bali last week!
Published in SUNS #8776 dated 18 October 2018
Geneva, 17 Oct (D. Ravi Kanth) - The WTO Director-General Roberto
Azevedo said on Tuesday that he has not had the opportunity to read
the report on "Reinvigorating Trade and Inclusive Growth"
prepared by his secretariat along with the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund, which calls for doing away with the consensus principle
to launch plurilateral negotiations, several trade envoys told SUNS.
At an informal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting on Tuesday
(16 October), several developing countries - India, South Africa on
behalf of the African Group, and Ecuador among others - sharply criticized
the WTO Secretariat for advocating reforms without prior approval
from members. (See SUNS #8773 dated 15 October 2018).
India said it is "deeply concerned at the WTO Secretariat becoming
a party to the recent report by international organisations on WTO
reforms," according to trade envoys present at the meeting.
According to a participant who asked not to be quoted, India's trade
envoy J S Deepak said while "the issue of institutional reform
of the WTO is important for some members," it is "best resolved
by the Membership without the Secretariat offering its suggestions."
Ambassador Deepak said, "in absence of any explicit request from
the Membership by consensus, we expect the Secretariat to act with
restraint in this matter so that the Member-driven character of the
WTO is preserved."
On behalf of the African Group, South Africa's trade envoy Ambassador
Xavier Carim said "we did not consider the recently released
IGO (inter-governmental organizations) Report by the WTO Secretariat,
World Bank and IMF."
"Suffice it to say that the Secretariat's stature is secured
when it maintains its international character and stands apart from
the partisan positions of Members," said Ambassador Carim, according
to a participant present at the meeting.
China said while it agrees with the DG's call for reforms to fix specific
problems for making the system work better, members should be cautious
"not to undermine the core values and basic principles of the
WTO such as non-discrimination, diminish the development right of
developing countries, or weaken the spirit of consensus."
"Any kind of reform," according to China, "should be
a mutual, comprehensive and gradual process, as it is a common cause
of 164 members. No one can be left out. No one can be singled out
either. Particularly, developing countries' interests should be strongly
voiced and fully reflected in this process."
Several developed countries - the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia,
Switzerland, and Norway among others - welcomed the reform proposals
for modernizing the WTO, including the WTO, IMF, and World Bank report
on "Reinvigorating Trade and Inclusive Growth."
In his concluding remarks on the criticism levelled against the WTO-WB-IMF
report, the DG said his secretariat participated in drafting the report
on "Reinvigorating Trade and Inclusive Growth" after receiving
requests from t he World Bank and the IMF, according to several trade
envoys present at the meeting.
The DG said he is not sure which of his division in the Secretariat
participated in drafting the report. Azevedo said he does not remember
all the contents of the report as he had read it sometime ago.
The DG said he will now look into the report in the face of criticisms
made by members, suggesting that there was no bias, according to several
envoys pre sent at the meeting.
The DG along with the chiefs of the WB and the IMF had publicly issued
the report at the IMF meeting in Bali last week, said a South American
trade envoy, arguing that the DG is pretending that he doesn't know
the contents of the report.
"What the DG said in his concluding remarks is a classic case
of Azevedo who tends to put an innocent face on his continued violations
of multilateral rules time and time again," said another trade
envoy, preferring anonymity.
[If the DG's explanation on the joint report is to be believed, it
would appear to mean a case of self-confessed professional incompetence,
and inability to run a secretariat. - SUNS]