TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb17/10)
13 February 2017
Third World Network
DG Azevedo rebuked by India over "value-loaded" statements
Published in SUNS #8397 dated 8 February 2017
Geneva, 7 Feb (D. Ravi Kanth) -- India sharply rebuked on Monday (6 February)
the World Trade Organization director-general Roberto Azevedo over his
assessment that there were "wide divergences" on special safeguard
mechanism (SSM) in the run-up to the Nairobi ministerial meeting in December
2015, trade envoys told SUNS.
The DG, India said, must resist making "value-loaded" statements even
before starting the negotiations for the eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos
Aires, Argentina, later this year.
During a closed-door meeting with over two dozen trade envoys on
agriculture-related issues for the Buenos Aires meeting, held at India's
insistence, the DG mentioned that the permanent solution for public stockholding
programs for food security and domestic support are among the issues for the
Buenos Aires meeting.
On SSM, he said, there had been "wide divergences" in the run-up to
the Nairobi meeting.
Azevedo also claimed there was "lot of interest" in export restrictions,
a proposal that was floated time and time again by Japan but has failed to
garner any support, according to trade envoys present at the meeting.
India, which spoke at the end of the meeting, raised both process-related and
On the process side, India said it would urge the Trade Negotiations Committee
chair "not to make value-loaded statements on issues such as about having
divergent views and lot of interest."
India said it is much too early to make such statements when the negotiations
for the Buenos Aires meeting are yet to start in full earnest.
Such statements, said India's trade envoy Ambassador Anjali Prasad, "would
poison the discussions, as we all know how things would work and in which way
they will go when chairs make pronouncements," according to a trade envoy
who was present at the meeting.
India demanded clear and unambiguous outcomes on public stockholding programs
for food security and special safeguard mechanism as mandated in the Bali and
Nairobi ministerial declarations of 2015.
The Nairobi ministerial declaration on SSM, which referred to the 2004 July
framework agreement and the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial declaration, had
emphasized the "critical importance of instituting an accessible and
effective trade remedy tool i. e. the SSM, that is responsive to the needs and
conditions of developing countries which, if not immediately and effectively
addressed as they occur, undermine poverty reduction efforts, livelihood and
food security, and rural development in developing country members."
It further said "members shall engage constructively to negotiate in order
to ensure adoption of the Special Safeguard Mechanism by the eleventh
ministerial conference [Buenos Aires]."
As regards substantive concerns, India said it is common knowledge that
negotiations on SSM were blocked and stonewalled by key members in the run-up
to the Nairobi ministerial meeting.
Several countries such as the United States, Australia, the European Union, and
Brazil had simply refused to engage in any negotiations on SSM, saying that
they would not discuss the issue without discussing all other issues in the
market access pillar.
In the run-up to the Nairobi meeting, the US had rejected a demand for a
special safeguard mechanism (SSM) that aims to protect resource-poor farmers in
developing countries from unforeseen surges of agricultural imports.
Indonesia, India, China, the Philippines and Turkey, Barbados on behalf of the
ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) coalition, and Lesotho, coordinating the
African group of countries, maintained that the SSM is crucial for concluding
the DDA negotiations.
The US had vehemently stated before Nairobi that the demand for SSM will not
fly because of the attempts to lower the level of ambition in the market access
for agricultural products.
The US also suggested that SSM can only be discussed as part of market access
negotiations, implying that there is no need for SSM when the level of market
access in the Doha negotiations is being re-calibrated.
Since the launch of the DDA negotiations in 2001, a large majority of
developing countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas consistently demanded
SSM on grounds that it is vital for resource-poor farmers to counter the
unforeseen surges in imports of agriculture products.
In the failed 2008 ministerial meeting, India's then commerce minister Kamal
Nath maintained that without a credible SSM, India will never sacrifice the
interests of its poor farmers.
On behalf of the 47-member G-33 coalition, Indonesia led the charge for a
"simple, operable, and effective safeguard mechanism" to ensure that
farmers in developing countries are not undermined by volatile supplies from
countries that provide billions of dollars of trade-distorting domestic
SSM, the G-33 argued, is meant "to respond to import surges and price
declines that threatens small, subsistence farmers who overwhelmingly reside in
the rural areas, and food security."
SSM calls for imposing special safeguard measures when imports cross agreed
benchmarks either in volume or in prices.
Indonesia and Turkey had said it is wrong to link SSM with market access,
saying that regardless of the level of ambition, farmers in developing
countries need a mechanism to face harmful surges of imports of agricultural
Indonesia said the mechanism will only be triggered based on most current
market realities involving sudden drop in prices or a precipitous increase in
volumes of imports over a period of three-year rolling average.
The G-33 has proposed a volume trigger of 110%, 115%, 135%, and above for
imposing special safeguard duties.
It has argued that "the 3-decade-old fixed reference price of 1986-88 is
undoubtedly outdated and flawed economic basis for triggering the price
mechanism in today's realities".
During the green room meeting on 6 February, Indonesia on behalf of the G-33
group and Turkey had supported India's demand for the SSM.
India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Kenya also strongly demanded a clear outcome on
the permanent solution for public stockholding programs at the Buenos Aires
India also cautioned against the attempts to change the goalposts in the
domestic support negotiations as some countries are calling for disciplining de
minimis. India said both de minimis and Article 6.2 of the Agreement on
Agriculture are red lines for New Delhi.
India subtly conveyed to the DG that there was NO "lot of interest"
for export restrictions except from one member.
In the face of India's rebuke, the DG said "it is my duty to give an
assessment and I will keep doing my duty."
In a nutshell, the DG is already setting the markers for the Buenos Aires
meeting in which issues raised by developing countries, particularly the G-33
group, are given a short shrift, while items of interest to the US and other
industrial nations are being pushed and promoted by him, the envoy said. +