Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr17/04)
10 April 2017
Third World Network
Kenya's Karau to chair agriculture negotiations
Published in SUNS #8439 dated 7 April 2017
Geneva, 6 Apr (D. Ravi Kanth) - An informal meeting of the General
Council on Friday (7 April) is expected to formally adopt the appointment
of Ambassador Stephen Ndung'u Karau of Kenya as the new chair of the
Doha agriculture negotiating body.
The choice and finalization of Amb. Karau's name to chair the Doha
agriculture negotiating body has come after the direct intervention
of the World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevedo.
Such an interference by the DG, in what is generally a process involving
only members, and not officials of the WTO, has caused alarm and outrage
among countries, several trade envoys told SUNS.
"At a time when members have to negotiate crucial issues in the
Doha agriculture dossier, Azevedo's influence and interference in
the appointment of Ambassador Karau will have serious implications
for the credibility and integrity of decisions to be finalized before
the eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires later this year,"
said a trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.
An informal meeting of the General Council on Friday (7 April) will
formally adopt the appointment of Ambassador Karau as the new chair
of the Doha agriculture negotiating body.
Along with Ambassador Karau's appointment, the informal GC will also
adopt the chairs for the WTO's regular bodies including Columbia's
ambassador Juan Carlos Gonzalez for the Trade Policy Review Body,
United Kingdom's trade envoy Ambassador Julian Braithwaite for the
Council for Trade in Services, South Korea's trade envoy and Ambassador
Kyonglim Choi as the chair for the Council for Trade in Goods.
But what has become an eyesore of the entire selection process is
the manner in which the director general interfered for finalizing
the negotiating chair for agriculture at a time when members have
to commence serious negotiations for the permanent solution for public
stockholding programs for food security, the special safeguard mechanism
for developing countries, and the reduction commitments in the domestic
support and other unresolved issues in the Doha agriculture dossier,
trade envoys said.
Amb Karau is currently chairing the Special Session of the Dispute
Settlement Body in its negotiations for improving provisions of the
DSU, but in that capacity, has not been known for engaging with members.
By appointing Ambassador Karau who has no institutional or negotiating
knowledge of the linkages and trade-offs in agriculture, like the
previous chair of the Doha agriculture negotiations Ambassador Vangelis
Vitalis of New Zealand, Azevedo and the Secretariat are sending a
loud and clear message: their intention to manipulate the negotiations
during the next nine months before members assemble at Buenos Aires,
according to trade envoys, who asked not to be quoted.
Azevedo apparently called Kenya's foreign minister Amina Mohamed to
allow Ambassador Karau to chair the Doha agriculture negotiating body
even before members within the African Group and other regions came
to know that Ambassador Karau is being considered for the most important
negotiating assignment ahead of the Buenos Aires meeting, said several
trade envoys who asked not to be quoted.
"To call a minister to enable their ambassador to chair the agriculture
special session is a clear indication that they will manage the negotiating
process and are bound to manipulate the new chair," said an African
trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.
"In a member-driven organization, the DG has no business to tamper
with selection process and members are outraged at these ugly happenings
behind the scenes," the envoy said.
Knowing full well that Ambassador Karau is currently overseeing the
negotiations for improving the dispute settlement provisions, Azevedo
promoted Karau's candidature on grounds of breaking the current impasse
as a stop-gap arrangement, said another trade envoy who is familiar
with the development.
"Clearly, the DG has revived the unforgettable memories of the
WTO's tenth ministerial conference in Nairobi in December 2015, where
he played a major role in manipulating the results in agriculture
and other areas while keeping the rest of the membership in the dark,"
said another envoy, who asked not to be quoted.
"We should not be allowed to be manipulated by a director general
who is merely an international civil servant," the envoy added.
The appointment of Ambassador Karau as the new chair of Doha agriculture
was craftily orchestrated after Azevedo spoke to Ambassador Mohamed
some time during the past ten days.
For example, once it became clear that Karau will be the chair for
the agriculture negotiations, the GC chair Ambassador Xavier Carim
of South Africa, his predecessor Harald Neple of Norway, and the current
DSB chair Ambassador Junichi Ihara from Japan held meetings with coordinators
of different regional groups to inform about the new chair.
The coordinators then held meetings with their members to share the
news about Ambassador Karau.
During the meeting of the African Group, a few trade envoys cautioned
Karau that the manner in which the director general reached his minister
does not augur well for the negotiations.
"We should not be allowed to be manipulated in this manner and
to treat this as a stop-gap arrangement merely to break the impasse
in finalizing the slate of chairs is inconceivable," said an
African trade envoy.
In 2009, Azevedo, in his previous capacity as the Ambassador of Brazil,
tried hard to become the chair of Doha agriculture negotiating body
following Ambassador Crawford Falconer's completion of his term.
But, the then General Council chair from Chile Ambassador Mario Matus
consulted with members and decided to opt for New Zealand's trade
envoy David Walker instead of Azevedo, said people familiar with the
Unfortunately, there are few members at this juncture who have the
institutional memory about the integrity of the processes to be followed
at the WTO - in which the Secretariat and the Director General are
required to stay out.
In the past, when directors-general intervened in the negotiating
processes or finalization of decisions at WTO, they were clearly told
not to interfere.
For example, the former EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson told
the then director general Pascal Lamy during the green room meeting
in Hong Kong not to interfere and take sides during a heated discussion
between the US and EU at the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting in December
2005, several trade envoys said.
Given his long stay as Brazil's chief trade negotiator as well as
envoy in Geneva, Azevedo as a director general is able to run circles
around members for achieving his goals, said a South American trade
At a time when few members have institutional memory about the negotiations
during 2007-2009, Azevedo knows all the tricks and tactics to intimidate
members, the envoy suggested.
In short, as members prepare for the eleventh ministerial meeting
in Buenos Aires, it is increasingly becoming clear that the director-general
will ensure a repeat of the Nairobi ministerial meeting of 2015 in
which members arrive at decisions that will have little credibility,
trade envoys said.