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TWN 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 development.

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 envoy.

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.

 


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