TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jun17/06)
14 June 2017
Third World Network
South nations demand credible, concrete outcomes on Doha at MC11
Published in SUNS #8479 dated 12 June 2017
Paris, 9 Jun (D. Ravi Kanth) -- Trade ministers from India, South Africa,
Indonesia, and the ACP countries on Thursday called for credible and concrete
outcomes based on the outstanding Doha issues at the World Trade Organization's
eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in December, according to people
familiar with the development.
Meeting on the margins of the annual OECD ministerial meeting in Paris on 8
June, these South countries demanded outcomes on the permanent solution for
public stockholding (PSH) programs for food security, and credible commitments
by developed countries for reducing their trade-distorting domestic support.
Both India and South Africa maintained that the developing countries cannot be
asked to make any payments in trade-distorting domestic support which was
largely a problem created by major developed countries.
India's trade minister Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman and South Africa's trade
minister Mr. Rob Davies also spoke against deliverables on e-commerce,
investment facilitation, and other new issues which are not part of the
The Paris meeting failed to bring about any consensus on what needs to be
accomplished at the Buenos Aires meeting as trade ministers from the over two
dozen countries/groupings stuck each to their own core priorities which
differed from one to the other, several trade ministers told SUNS.
Sitharaman said she cannot visualize any outcome at Buenos Aires without the
permanent solution for public stockholding programs.
She insisted that the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) must be finalized for
addressing the inequities of the Agreement on Agriculture.
On domestic support, she said the developed countries are required to undertake
commitments. She insisted that New Delhi will not accept attempts to shift the
burden on to developing countries.
India also demanded enhanced flexibilities for small and artisanal fishermen in
India on grounds that they survive for their livelihood on artisanal fisheries.
India said e-commerce is not part of the mandate.
Indonesia, South Africa and the ACP countries along with India insisted that
the mandated issues in the Doha work program must be addressed before
considering any non-mandated issues.
In an interview with the SUNS, South Africa's trade minister warned about the
dangers of repeating the Nairobi ministerial meeting of December 2015 in Buenos
Aires during the eleventh ministerial conference, saying opaque and
non-credible practices could lead to a deadlock.
He said "Nairobi is not replicable even though members agreed on the
agriculture export competition on which there was consensus."
Minister Davies said the proposed informal trade ministerial meeting in
Marrakesh, Morocco, in the second week of October is going to be the crucial
"stock-taking meeting" that will decide whether members can finalize
credible and balanced outcomes at Buenos Aires.
"Marrakesh has to be the moment of truth and even before that things must
be clearly decided," the South African minister emphasized.
He said the informal ministerial meeting in Paris had failed to bring about any
consensus yet on any issue for the eleventh ministerial meeting. "There
are complications on almost all issues that people are talking at this juncture
which is acknowledged by the director-general," he said.
Minister Davies said there are lots of proposals on the table at this moment
but there is no detailed engagement among members.
He said there is sharp opposition against various proposals, including
unresolved issues in the Doha work program which are very important to African
"It is not at all clear that adequate consensus will lead to concrete
outcomes on domestic support," he said.
Minister Davies maintained that those who had caused the historic distortions
in global agriculture must pay for the proposed reduction commitments.
Minister Davies called for the speedy resolution of mandated issues such as the
permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security.
"I think there is more energy on some of the new issues which are
un-mandated," he said, adding it is a "funny situation and a season for
everybody for making proposals."
He acknowledged that some of the new issues such as e-commerce are the
alternative gateway in a world which is changing.
Even though e-commerce is a part of the new world with huge advantages for many
people, it could also "land up in a winner takes it all model as it is
skewed towards the few while many others will be left behind," he
"That is what is happening now and until that is changed, multilateral
cooperation has a role to play in creating inclusivity," he said.
Minister Davies emphasized that "If members just have the traditional
rules for trade (on e-commerce) that will freeze the status quo and enhances
and strengthens the advantages of the early comers against the late
He said South Africa has no problem about a work program or conversations or
discussions for creating greater inclusivity for addressing development
"But there is a huge gulf between that and saying that we are about to
write international rules, legally-binding multilateral trade rules,"
Minister Davies argued.
The United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said outcomes in
international trade must remain "free, fair, and reciprocal" while
insisting that there is no convergence on the possible deliverables for the
Buenos Aires meeting.
Ambassador Lighthizer severely criticized the workings of the WTO, particularly
the rulings issued by Dispute Settlement Body and the Appellate Body.
Ambassador Lighthizer did not mince words, suggesting that the global trade
body is not "perfect." He said there is a dynamic discussion
currently underway in the US on the ongoing trade issues, emphasizing that
international trade should be "free, fair, and reciprocal."
The USTR said Washington has lot of concerns with the WTO, especially on the
rulings delivered by the Dispute Settlement Body and the Appellate Body.
Ambassador Lighthizer said there is lack of transparency in the WTO in terms of
failure to comply with notifications, and some countries have not notified
their subsidy and other measures - which is a major challenge to address at the
As regards the preparations for the WTO's eleventh ministerial meeting and the
expected deliverables, Ambassador Lighthizer said he sees little convergence on
any of the issues at this juncture.
Trade ministers from several countries - the European Union, Japan, Australia,
New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, and Korea among others - delivered an
optimistic assessment of the possible deliverables at the Buenos Aires meeting.
They mentioned a list of deliverables on fisheries subsidies, domestic
regulation in services, trade-distorting domestic support, digital trade,
investment facilitation, and small and medium enterprises.
The three-hour meeting attended by trade ministers from more than two dozen
countries revealed sharp differences over the deliverables for the eleventh
Effectively, there is no consensus on what must be accomplished at the Buenos
Aires meeting in seven months.
WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo delivered a sombre assessment, saying that
he cannot see any low- hanging fruits for harvesting in Buenos Aires. He
encouraged members to accelerate work in Geneva.
Argentina said the Buenos Aires meeting must deliver concrete outcomes on
issues that are currently being discussed in Geneva.
It suggested three informal ministerial meetings - two in Geneva before the
summer break and one in Marrakesh in the second week of October.
The EU's trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom suggested that domestic
regulation, trade-distorting domestic support, and e-commerce among others
could be finalized at the Buenos Aires meeting.
Japan spoke about digital trade, and investment as the possible candidates.
Japan also called for resuming the stalled negotiations on the plurilateral
initiatives for environmental goods and Trade in Services Agreement.
In short, the Paris meeting failed to produce any consensus as major
industrialized countries along with several developing countries attempted to
pull the agenda hard in favour of new issues while leading developing countries
stuck to their core Doha issues, trade ministers said. +