TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb17/11)
13 February 2017
Third World Network
Azevedo pushing differentiation, negotiating North's agenda for MC11
Published in SUNS #8398 dated 9 February 2017
Geneva, 8 Feb (D. Ravi Kanth) -- The World Trade Organization director-general
Roberto Azevedo has told several trade envoys that differentiation among
developing countries would happen in the development dossier of the unfinished
Doha negotiations, trade envoys told SUNS.
During a meeting with the proponents seeking changes in the special and
differential treatment flexibilities in the Doha Development Agenda
negotiations on 3 February (Friday), the DG is reported to have said that two
things are going to happen in the run-up to the WTO's eleventh ministerial
meeting in Buenos Aires later this year.
First, differentiation among developing countries for availing special and
differential treatment (S&DT) flexibilities would happen as demanded by
major developed countries such as the United States, the European Union, Japan,
Canada, and Australia among others, Azevedo suggested, according to a trade
envoy from a least-developed country, who asked not to be quoted.
Second, the improvements in special and differential treatment or broad
exemptions covered in the S&DT flexibilities will only be available for
limited periods of time and not permanently, Azevedo maintained, the envoy
Fiji, on behalf of the small and vulnerable economies (SVEs), demanded outcomes
for improving 25 issues that fall under the monitoring mechanism.
The SVEs drew attention to the Bali ministerial decision under which members
had agreed to ensure that the monitoring mechanism acts as a focal point within
the WTO to analyse and review the implementation of S&DT provisions.
The developing countries sought improvements in S&DT provisions aimed at
increasing their trade opportunities, provisions under which WTO members should
safeguard the interests of developing countries, flexibility of commitments,
action, and use of policy instruments, and transition time periods.
Over the last decade, and more, the developed countries have strongly opposed
clarifying and improving the special and differential treatment provisions in
various WTO agreements, according to several developing country trade envoys.
In the lead up to MC10 in Nairobi, those same developed countries disengaged on
the G90 proposals, citing their "ideological concerns" about
developing and least developed countries industrializing their economies and
protecting their infant industries.
By bringing "differentiation" into this negotiation, developing
countries will be further divided, said a developing country trade envoy, after
the DG's meeting.
"It is shocking that the DG is negotiating on behalf of the major developed
countries even before commencing the negotiating work for the Buenos Aires
meeting," the envoy said.
Meanwhile, the DG also held a meeting with the proponents of e-commerce on
Monday (6 February) to discuss how they can move the issue forward during the
next six months, said a trade envoy from a proponent-country, who asked not to
During the closed-door meeting, the proponents such as the United States, the
European Union, China, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Hong Kong, Israel, Korea,
Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Qatar, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Brazil, Argentina,
El Salvador, and Nigeria among others pressed for two major deliverables at the
Buenos Aires meeting.
The proponents called for an outcome at the Buenos Aires meeting on two issues.
They include a permanent moratorium for not levying customs duties on
electronically traded products and services and a clear and well- defined
future work plan.
The proponents said the Buenos Aires meeting must provide a clearly defined and
coherent work program on e-commerce. It must be "a concrete step
forward" in proceeding on the e-commerce agenda, the envoy said.
Several participants maintained that there are many issues that need to be
sorted out in the e-commerce work program which could prove unwieldy to manage
in the next six months.
Therefore, the participants said efforts should be focussed on transparency,
trade facilitation in e-commerce, and consumer protection.
The South American proponents - Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay - called for addressing
the issue in trade facilitation of e-commerce such as electronic signatures
(e-signature), electronic payment, electronic document, and provision of
certification of services, liability, and protection of personal data.
But many proponents acknowledged that it would be difficult to make progress in
e-commerce because of continued opposition from many developing and
The 1998 WTO Work Programme on Electronic Commerce is comprehensive insofar as
the examination of "all trade-related issues relating to global electronic
commerce" is concerned.
It is unclear how proponents intend to deal with their demands when several
developing countries, including India, Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, the African,
ACP and LDC Groups expressed their concerns with the strong push to negotiate
rules on e-commerce in the absence of a negotiating mandate in the WTO.
The African Group, in particular South Africa, Rwanda, Egypt, Tanzania, Uganda
and Zimbabwe, who have been championing the development issues that still need
to be addressed, have sensitised Members to the alarming digital divide that
has plagued the African continent and placed their consumers and producers
alike at a competitive disadvantage when industrialised countries have had decades
to develop their e-commerce competencies.
"WTO rules in this area will lock in the existing imbalances we see in
e-commerce", said an African trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.
Nigeria, on the other hand, has eagerly joined the e-commerce bandwagon, and is
now calling for deliverables at the Buenos Aires meeting.
"It is hard to reconcile how Nigeria is e-commerce ready when the biggest
economy in Africa is constantly faced with electricity shortages and blackouts
and is currently experiencing an economic recession".
The WTO and other international organisations have rolled out a coordinated
plan to negotiate new issues like e-commerce in the WTO to the exclusion of all
the other priority negotiating issues emanating from the Doha Development Round,
according to several trade envoys.
Azevedo is going to make a strong pitch for e-commerce negotiations today in
New Delhi knowing full well that India is experiencing an existential crisis in
regard to its IT exports to the US and other countries.
The US Congress and President Donald Trump did not mince words in curbing the
H1B program by imposing the most stringent conditions for H1B visas for skilled
The legislation which is being considered by the US Congress would force Indian
companies to pay H1B immigrants at least $130,000 which is almost twice their
President Trump is expected to issue an executive order on H1B visas akin to a
ban on travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, according to the
Against this backdrop, the director-general, in his eagerness to secure a
second term, has not only remained silent on the US actions but is actively
navigating the negotiations for the eleventh ministerial meeting to please the
US and its new administration, several trade envoys maintained. +