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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct16/08)
7 October 2016
Third World Network


Buenos Aires to host WTO's MC11 next year
Published in SUNS #8326 dated 5 October 2016


Geneva, 4 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- A meeting on Monday of the General Council of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has formally agreed that Argentina will host the organisation's eleventh ministerial conference (MC11) in 2017.

This came following Uruguay's decision to withdraw its bid to host MC11 in Punta del Este. Both Argentina and Uruguay had earlier in July offered to host MC11.

According to trade officials, the dates of the conference have not yet been agreed.

However, the Chair of the General Council, Ambassador Harald Neple of Norway, informed members that the dates of 4-7 December 2017 are being looked at.

Director-General Roberto Azevedo thanked both Argentina and Uruguay for offering to host MC11, and said that this "will put us on an excellent path" to follow up on the successes of Bali and Nairobi. It will "also focus minds on identifying deliverables" for MC11, he said.

REPORT BY CHAIR OF TRADE NEGOTIATIONS COMMITTEE

In reporting to the GC, in his capacity as chair of the TNC, Azevedo referred members to the report that he had made at a Heads of Delegation (HOD) meeting on Friday (30 September), which he said will be added to the record of the General Council meeting.

He reiterated his call at the General Council for members to deepen and widen their conversations in the coming days. "This will be essential in order to create an atmosphere of trust so that, in due course, proposals can be discussed and progress made," he said.

In his remarks at the HOD meeting last Friday (posted on the WTO website), Azevedo had said it was important that members deepen their discussions about what they want to achieve between now and MC11.

"I think the immediate priority now should be to deepen conversations between members to scope out the issues ahead of the 11th Ministerial. We should especially look for those balancing elements that take into account members' different interests and positions - elements that respond to the needs of developed, developing and least-developed members," he had said.

A number of delegations spoke at the informal HOD meeting on Friday and their statements were added to the record of the General Council meeting on Monday.

In these statements, Members reportedly reiterated their positions on the various issues including their priorities for possible outcomes for MC11. (See separate article above.)

In previous HOD and General Council meetings, a number of developing countries had made clear that development outcomes are crucial at MC11 and that priority must be given to the Doha issues.

They had also stressed that accords on issues of public stockholding for food security purposes and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) must be delivered at MC11. The development dimension must also be central, they had said (see SUNS #8292, #8241 #8181 and #8179).

A few delegations spoke at the General Council meeting under the agenda item of report by the TNC chair.

According to trade officials, Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Arab Group, stressed the need to move from reflection to action.

There is need to build on the Bali and Nairobi Ministerial Declarations. Tangible progress needs to be made and the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration should be used as a basis, it said.

Benin, on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), highlighted the importance of advancing progress in all areas of work.

Expressing concerns about the slow pace of negotiations, it said that there is need to change the approach.

Trade is an important driver for development and poverty alleviation, but only if everyone is playing by the same rules, said Benin.

It stressed the importance of an agreement on duty-free quota-free market access for LDC products (DFQF).

The LDCs are also in favour of a substantial reduction, or total elimination of, trade-distorting support in agriculture.

They stressed on a multilateral approach on fisheries subsidies and strong disciplines on illegal and unreported fishing, and highlighted the importance of Special and Differential Treatment (SDT).

The LDCs said that they have taken note of the developments on e-commerce and stressed the importance of ensuring that LDC interests are taken into account.

The Dominican Republic, on behalf of the informal group of developing countries, said it is deeply concerned about the slowdown in trade expansion, referring in this context to the WTO's recently revised forecast for trade growth down to 1.7%.

The development dimension must be at the heart of the WTO's work, stressed the Dominican Republic.

Expressing support for Benin's statement on behalf of the LDCs, Nepal said that there is need to implement the Bali and Nairobi Ministerial Declarations.

There also needs to be a balanced, development-centred outcome, and that the Doha Round issues should be a priority.

According to Nepal, new issues should be taken up on the basis of how ripe they are and on their merits.

IMPLEMENTATION OF BALI AND NAIROBI OUTCOMES

Under the agenda item of implementation of the Bali and Nairobi outcomes in the respective WTO bodies, the General Council Chair, Ambassador Neple of Norway, informed members that there will be a dedicated session on e-commerce this October.

According to trade officials, on the issue of Aid for Trade, he said monitoring and evaluation will be a crucial element of the Aid for Trade work programme of 2016-2017.

The General Council Chair urged members to fill in the questionnaires and submit case studies by the end of October.

On the issue of agriculture, he said that in November, the Committee on Agriculture will be holding a meeting to take up the question of food aid.

On LDC issues, the Chair said the issue of DFQF is on the agenda of the Committee on Trade and Development and this will be taken up in November.

On the SDT monitoring mechanism (part of the Bali package), he said that there have been five meetings held but there has not been a single written submission made.

On preferential rules of origin (one of the Nairobi deliverables), Ambassador Neple said that there is an effort to try and come up with a mutually agreed methodology of calculating the utilization rates, but this still has to be approved.

He noted that there is also a draft template on notification for those advanced countries that have preferential schemes for LDCs in services. The Chair urged these countries to fill it in and notify before the end of the month.

On Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs), the Chair said that there was an agreement to try and work towards transforming the transparency mechanism (agreed in 2006) into a permanent mechanism.

On the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), he said there have been 94 acceptances so far which is 85% of what is needed for the TFA to come into force.

Under this agenda item, Benin said the LDC Group has been in discussions with the US, the EU and Pakistan on the issue of DFQF. It will put forward a draft template for notification on preferential rules of origin very soon.

It urged members to adopt the template and methodology for calculating the utilization rates.

OTHER ACTIONS

Under a separate agenda item, new chairs were appointed for three WTO bodies. The Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products (NAMA) will now be chaired by Ambassador Didier Chambovey of Switzerland (replacing Ambassador Remigi Winzap of Switzerland), while the Council for Trade in Services in Special Session will be chaired by Ambassador Hector Cima of Argentina (replacing Ambassador Gabriel Duque of Colombia).

The Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation will be chaired by Ambassador Mariam Salleh of Malaysia (replacing Ambassador Esteban Conejos of the Philippines).

OTHER BUSINESS

According to trade officials, the General Council Chair announced that the process for the selection of the new Director-General is now underway.

According to trade officials, DG Azevedo has informed the General Council Chair that he will submit a letter to him indicating his candidacy for a second term and that he will do that before the process formally begins on 1 December 2016.

[Azevedo began his first four-year term of office as DG on 1 September 2013. At a media briefing on 27 July 2016, during a General Council meeting, Azevedo had said that even though the formal process has not started yet (it begins when the General Council Chair launches the process at the October General Council meeting), he has indicated to members that he "will make himself available, if members feel that this is helpful, I will be there to go for a second term at that point in time."

[When the General Council Chair launches the process "then I will formalize this decision but it was just an indication to avoid the rumours and avoid speculation and uncertainty," he had said. (See SUNS #8292 dated 28 July 2016).]

According to trade officials, under the 2002 procedures for the appointment of Directors-General, between the period of 1 to 31 December 2016, other candidates can be nominated by WTO members for the post of WTO Director-General.

[Under the procedures set out in document WT/L/509, the appointment process shall start nine months prior to the expiry of the term of an incumbent Director-General with a notification from the Chair to the General Council. The process shall conclude with a meeting of the General Council convened not later than three months prior to the expiry of an incumbent's term, at which a decision to appoint a new Director-General shall be taken.] +

 


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