Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul17/21)
28 July 2017
Third World Network
Chairs of WTO Doha bodies report on key issues at TNC
Published in SUNS #8511 dated 27 July 2017
Geneva, 26 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- After an hiatus of almost two years,
an informal meeting of the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC)
was finally held on Tuesday, at which the chairs of the various negotiating
bodies under the Doha Work Programme reported on their recent consultations
on the key issues in the run-up to the eleventh ministerial conference
in Buenos Aires this December.
Previously, during the two years when no TNC meeting had been convened,
the Chairs had given their reports at informal Heads of Delegation
(HOD) meetings. (See separate story.)
The reports by the Chairs at the TNC were preceded by some remarks
by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo.
Following the remarks by the DG and the reports by the Chairs, a number
of delegations took the floor, with many developing countries highlighting
the importance of advancing on all the Doha issues, and for outcomes
on public stockholding for food security purposes and on the special
safeguard mechanism (SSM) to be delivered, as mandated, at MC11 (see
According to trade officials, the Director-General Roberto Azevedo,
also the Chair of the TNC, took the floor at the start of the informal
TNC meeting, and noted that there were two TNC meetings in 2014 and
2015 when members looked at the post-Bali work programme.
He said that the process now has been energised and there has been
a very through and frank discussion going on.
Referring to the format of the informal HOD meetings, he said that
this format led to more frank discussion and it also made the General
Council more expeditious.
The DG explained that the TNC portion (of the meetings on Tuesday
followed by an informal HOD) will focus on TNC-specific activities
including the reports of the eight negotiating group chairs, and the
HOD is a continuation of the transparency exercise where the DG gives
an overview of activities.
The activities of these two meetings will be reflected under two agenda
items of the General Council meeting on Wednesday. It was up to delegations
whether they took the floor at the TNC or the HOD, or both.
The DG then spoke about his recent activities, saying that he had
visited a number of capitals, and met with a number of stakeholders.
In all of his travels, he said that he had stressed the need for progress
on the Doha issues and the importance of obtaining an outcome at Buenos
He met with the negotiating group chairs on 1 June and also on 24
July. He said there is need to work with greater urgency to advance
these issues. In fact, there is need for greater urgency right across
the board in terms of all the issues.
The DG welcomed the increase in activity on the development issues
as well as in agriculture. He noted that there have been 18 submissions
on agriculture tabled since the beginning of the year.
In the last week, there have been 8 submissions that focus on domestic
support, the SSM, and public stockholding.
Submissions have also been received on fisheries subsidies and anti-dumping
and horizontal subsidies.
He also mentioned a proposal on NAMA and the 10 agreement-specific
proposals on SDT (special and differential treatment) tabled by the
Azevedo said that it is positive that members are putting forward
these more detailed texts that are leading to these discussions. This
is welcome but a great deal of work needs to be done.
He noted that when members come back in September, there will only
be 14 weeks remaining till MC11, and there is need to increase the
intensity of the work and for members to use the month of August to
work with capitals.
He also said that members need to be realistic about what they can
do by the Buenos Aires ministerial meeting. As with the Bali and Nairobi
ministerials we need to do what we can to make Buenos Aires a success.
REPORTS BY NEGOTIATING GROUP CHAIRS
According to trade officials, the Chair of the Special Session of
the Agriculture Committee, Ambassador Stephen Karau of Kenya, reported
that he has had 35 bilateral meetings.
The Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture met on 1 June
and there were two dedicated sessions on public stockholding and SSM.
The Chair said that the topics that were taken up have been public
stockholding, domestic support, and SSM.
There has also been a proposal on agricultural market access put forward
by Paraguay and Peru, as well as a proposal on export restrictions
put forward by Singapore.
There has also been some discussion on export competition, SPS issues
and on cotton.
The Chair said that the issue of public stockholding for food security
purposes is one of the priority issues.
The gaps that remain are broadly the same, he said. There has been
invigorated engagement but there is homework for the members to do.
He said domestic support was another priority issue, noting that there
have been five more submissions on domestic support.
Most members are supportive of the issue of cotton, but a couple of
members are pessimistic, taking into account the overall negotiating
prospects for dealing with overall domestic support issues.
According to the Chair, many Members said that there needs to be a
more effective way to focus on how to get the issue of getting an
agreement on trade-distorting domestic support and that would facilitate
an agreement on cotton.
On agricultural market access, the Chair reported that there are diverging
views on the likelihood of an outcome on this issue.
Some say that maybe we can get incremental progress before MC11 and
then a post-Buenos Aires work program.
Others say that the focus should be on updating information that is
linked to market access to lay the groundwork for a work programme
after Buenos Aires.
On the SSM, the Chair said that the discussions on this issue have
not progressed, and there is no obvious way forward by MC11.
The proponents continue to say that the SSM is essential and workable
but others say that this is not possible without an agreement on market
On export restrictions, the Chair said there is broad interest and
support for the transparency provisions that were suggested in the
paper by Singapore, and many see this as a basis for moving forward.
But others say they want more on transparency while some others say
that this could be an administrative burden for them.
On export competition, the Chair reported that there is no expectation
for a deliverable on this issue.
On SPS, the Chair said that there were two Members that wanted to
discuss this issue and they are reflecting on how to proceed.
Many delegations say that an outcome on subsidies by MC11 is crucial,
while others say that it is vital to have something on public stockholding.
And others think that a partial deal is still possible, but yet others
have expressed very strong doubts that agreement on any of these areas
can come to fruition.
The Chair said there is a large body of the membership that say that
whatever the outcome in Buenos Aires, there is need to ensure a post-Buenos
Aires work programme.
He said that in the autumn, he will begin even more intensive negotiations
in an effort to try and find the way forward.
The Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, Ambassador Wayne McCook
of Jamaica, reported that since the last time Members met in May,
there have been seven technical proposals put forward.
All of these proposals refer to SDG Target 14.6 and the 2020 deadline.
They all focus on the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
and they all talk about the need for disciplines in areas where there
The proposals also speak of achieving an outcome by MC11.
The Chair said that all of the concept papers have now been converted
into legal texts, and later this week, he will circulate a matrix
which will include all of these textual proposals.
After the summer break, there will be an intensive programme of engagement
based on this matrix.
On trade remedies, he noted that a proposal was put forward by China,
and China said that it has listened to the concerns of members and
is going to broaden the scope of what is being offered.
The Chair said there is also a conceptual paper on transparency with
respect to horizontal subsidies.
Encouragingly, all members have said that each of these areas should
be taken up on its own merits without linkages or sequences, he said,
adding that he was heartened by this.
The Chair of the services negotiations, Ambassador Hector Marcelo
Cima of Argentina, reported that the areas that have been taken up
include domestic regulation, trade facilitation in services, and e-commerce.
On domestic regulation, he said that this is the most advanced issue.
Members have had the most in-depth discussion in terms of technical
standards, gender equity, development and LDCs.
Some members questioned the need for disciplines on domestic regulation
but many others have said that this is important for transparency.
The question now is in trying to determine the scope and detail of
According to the Chair, some other members have been concerned that
this might in some way impinge on their right to regulate.
So it is up to the proponents to work with the others to try and win
them over and get them going forward.
On India's proposal on trade facilitation in services, the Chair said
that there have been very substantive discussions of this paper.
On e-commerce, he said that the EU proposal on e-signatures, e-contracts,
spam and consumer protection has attracted a lot of attention.
Different views have been expressed. Some believe that the mandate
for e-commerce should be limited to discussions about whether the
moratorium on duties on e-commerce transactions is rolled over or
Others want to see a broader range of discussions, he added.
On market access in services, the Chair said that no concrete proposals
have been made at this stage.
The Chair of the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development,
Ambassador Tan Yee Woan of Singapore, reported on the discussion pertaining
to the G90 proposal on the 10 agreement-specific proposals on SDT.
Some were of the view that this would be a carve-out and are not in
favour while others say that it is essential because of the need to
recognise its importance for developing countries.
The Chair of the NAMA negotiations, Ambassador Didier Chambovey of
Switzerland, spoke on the proposal by the EU, Chinese Taipei, Hong
Kong-China and Singapore on transparency in regulatory measures, notably
on SPS measures and technical barriers to trade.
The opponents to the proposal said that there is a heavy administrative
burden vis-a-vis the proposal and it might impinge on the right to
Those who are skeptical said that there is also no common definition
on what is a small and medium sized enterprise, and how this is going
to help SMEs in developing countries.
They also do not see how this relates to the mandate of the NAMA negotiating
group, and said that there is need for consensus on negotiating this
issue, of which there is none at the moment.
They further said that time is too short (to the Buenos Aires meeting)
and these transparency issues on SPS and TBT were taken up in the
The Chair recommended that the co-sponsors meet with the members that
have expressed concern and see what can be done in moving forward.
The Chair of the TRIPS Council in Special Session, Ambassador Dacio
Castillo of Honduras, said that there is need for more active consultation.
At the moment there is very little likelihood for an outcome (pertaining
to the GI register for wines and spirits). There is the habitual divide
over the extent of the mandate.
He said that after the summer break, he will hold meetings, but at
this stage he has very little to report.
The Chair of the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment,
Ambassador Dr Syed Tauqir Shah of Pakistan, reported that there has
been very little movement on the three areas that pertain to the closer
engagement between the WTO and the environmental groupings.
One of these areas is on removing the barriers to trade in goods and
services. Here too that has been somewhat overtaken by the environmental
goods negotiations. There is not much progress to report there.
The Chair of the Special Session of the DSB, Ambassador Coly Seck
of Senegal, said that there were two issues taken up - one was on
strictly confidential information and the other was on sequencing.
He said that there will be a stocktaking after the summer break. It
is not clear at this stage whether there will be an outcome on any
of these issues.
The Chair of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, Minister Susana
Malcorra of Argentina, said the importance of the multilateral trading
system and its values and integrity should be underscored and strengthened.
She said that she will spare no efforts trying to bring about a success
in Buenos Aires.
She expressed concern about the work that is before the members and
that after the summer break there is no time to spare.
We must reinforce the role of the multilateral trading system and
its role in supporting our economies, she stressed.
These are challenging times, she said, noting that globalisation and
open trade have been blamed by some for job losses and beyond this
the citizens feel distanced from the leadership and from international
organisations like the WTO and they don't fully understand or appreciate
what the impact of the WTO is on their lives.
The Minister said the SDGs have set the tone for our work. There is
need to find common ground and build bridges and not walls.
The Nairobi Ministerial Conference showed what can be done and we
need to build on this to ensure that we can move forward.
She said she understood the importance of discussing the Doha issues.
For Argentina, the views of farmers are extremely important.
But there are other delegations who want to talk about twentieth century
issues and these are important for the WTO to remain relevant as well.
We have to keep up with the times and this is absolutely essential,
A lack of success in Buenos Aires is not an option, the Minister underlined.