Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct17/08)
11 October 2017
Third World Network
MC11 will be scene for fierce US vs South battle
Published in SUNS #8549 dated 10 October 2017
Geneva, 9 Oct (D. Ravi Kanth) - The World Trade Organization's eleventh
ministerial conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires beginning on 10 December
is going to be a fierce battle between the developing and poorest
countries on the one side, and the United States on the other, trade
envoys told SUNS.
Washington wants to ensure that there is no ministerial declaration
for continuing with the Doha Work Program for multilateral trade liberalization.
On the other side, key developing countries (China, India, G33 coalition,
South Africa, African Group, ACP and least developed countries) are
insistent on credible outcomes at MC11 on food security, special safeguard
mechanism, cutbacks/elimination of agriculture domestic subsidy in
developed countries, and completion of the development agenda of the
Doha Work Programme (DWP).
As trade ministers from more than 35 countries gathered on Monday
(9 October) at Marrakesh (Morocco) at an informal summit and discussed
the possible deliverables at MC11, the writing on the wall is there
for everybody to see, said a South American trade envoy, who asked
not to be quoted.
The US remains opposed to any ministerial declaration issued at the
end of the Buenos Aires meeting so as to ensure that there is no work
done on the basis of the existing Doha Work Program and that the multilateral
trade dispute resolution mechanism, a la the Dispute Settlement Body,
remains permanently paralysed, the envoy suggested.
Besides, the Buenos Aires meeting is also likely to be used as a venue
by the European Union and other industrialized and some developing
countries to finalize a few cosmetic outcomes in fisheries subsidies,
domestic regulation in GATS, and a limit on the overall trade-distorting
domestic support in Agriculture that would include the de minimis
payments currently availed of by developing countries like China and
India, and close of the Doha Round once and for all, the envoy suggested.
The EU along with the Cairns Group of countries led by Australia will
issue a common statement on the OTDS (overall trade-distorting domestic
support) at Marrakesh.
In a joint statement issued on 9 October, the EU and members of the
Cairns Group reaffirmed "a commitment to achieving progress and
believe that focusing on a new discipline on the overall level of
the most trade-distorting domestic support, with due consideration
to the development needs of developing members, offers a meaningful
and achievable next step in this process."
[This "alliance" will be an ironic development: before the
Uruguay Round was launched, the Australia-led Cairns Group had been
formed (in tacit alliance with the US) to mount an assault on the
EU (at that time the European Economic Community in GATT 1947) and
its agricultural policies encompassed in the Common Agricultural Policy
Further, there will be attempts by the EU and its allies with the
tacit approval from the US for embarking on plurilateral trade initiatives
in other areas at Buenos Aires.
Against this backdrop, several developing countries - India, Indonesia,
China, South Africa, as well as Rwanda on behalf of the African Group,
the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) coalition, and the coordinator
for LDCs - have made their positions known at the Marrakesh meeting.
The trade ministers of Indonesia, which is the coordinator for the
G33 coalition, and India among others have emphasized the need for
credible deliverables on the permanent solution for public stockholding
programs for food security, and the special safeguard mechanism (SSM).
China and India have called for the elimination of Aggregate Measurement
of Support (AMS) for any dialogue on the domestic support.
The ACP Group on Friday (6 October) issued a strong statement on what
needs to be done in domestic support, particularly beginning with
the elimination of the scheduled AMS commitments by developed and
some developing countries.
The G33 group has also made it clear that it will not make any payment
for the proposed permanent solution for public stockholding programs
for food security at Buenos Aires.
Trade ministers attending the Marrakesh meeting reiterated that their
governments want to conclude work on the unfinished Doha negotiations
so as to reinforce multilateral trade liberalization.
In the face of the corrosive "America First" bilateral trade
initiatives (which often turn out to be unilateral demands), the developing
countries, including Brazil and Argentina, want a clear statement
at the end of the Buenos Aires meeting so as to ensure a clear work
program for the WTO, according to a South American trade envoy.
The Marrakesh meeting, originally scheduled to finalize the possible
deliverables for the WTO's eleventh ministerial conference in Buenos
Aires, will not be attended by the United States Trade Representative
Ambassador Robert Lighthizer due to a sudden cabinet meeting scheduled
by his President Donald Trump on 10 October, according to a participant
who asked not to be quoted.
In the absence of the US and amid continued entrenched positions on
a range of issues in agriculture, fisheries subsidies, electronic
commerce, and other areas, the Marrakesh meeting will thus remain
"an event" for venting wish-lists of the participating countries
for the big Buenos Aires conference.
Ministers from Argentina, Brazil, India, China, the European Union,
Japan, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand, South
Africa, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong (China), Mexico, South Africa,
Indonesia, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Rwanda, and Jamaica among others -
made initial statements for three minutes each, setting out their
Subsequently, key ministers held a series of bilateral meetings as
well as participating in the meetings of their respective coalitions
such as the Group of more than 33 countries led by Indonesia in which
India is a main driver, the Cairns Group led by Australia, the African
Group led by Rwanda, the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) group
led by Guyana, and the least-developed countries among others.
On Tuesday (10 October), the ministers will make a final statement
following which the chair, Moulay Hafid Elalamy, the trade and industry
minister from Morocco, will deliver a statement directing the trade
envoys to work on priority areas during the next sixty days.
In the run-up to the Marrakesh meeting last week, it has become almost
clear that the WTO's eleventh ministerial conference in Buenos Aires
beginning on 10 December will be a battleground for several issues,
particularly for the future of multilateral trade liberalization based
on the Doha work program.
On Thursday (5 October), a large majority of developing countries,
including India, rejected attempts by Russia, Japan, the European
Union and other major industrialized as well as some developing countries
for replacing the structure of the current electronic commerce work
program at the WTO so as to establish a separate working group at
Without resolving the outstanding issues in the Doha work program,
major industrialized countries and their allies seem pretty determined
to embark on negotiations for new rules in e-commerce and other areas
while burying the Doha negotiations at Buenos Aires, said several
trade envoys who asked not to be quoted.
India said categorically that New Delhi will not accept any change
in the current work program on e-commerce which is comprehensive in
scope and remains relevant to the "development needs" of
developing countries, according to a person who attended the meeting.
India also rejected calls from major industrialized and a few developing
countries like Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong (China), for a permanent
moratorium for not imposing customs duties on electronic commerce
India will agree to extend the moratorium for another two years in
exchange for moratorium on TRIPS non- violation and situation complaints.
On agriculture, a large coalition of developing and poorest countries
has driven home the message that the fundamental reform of global
trade in agricultural products must begin with the elimination of
most trade- distorting domestic subsidies in the industrialized countries.
In a restricted job document Job/Ag/112 issued on 6 October, the ACP
group of more than 90 countries said "agriculture is a vital
sector for most ACP countries in terms of economic growth, employment,
food security and livelihoods" and "for this reason, achieving
tangible and binding results from negotiations aimed at establishing
a fair, and market-oriented trading system in agriculture, remains
central to the conclusion of the Doha Round and should be addressed
It called for eliminating "the asymmetries in domestic support
entitlements resulting from the Uruguay Round."
The ACP group set the following markers in the domestic support:
1. Domestic support negotiations should achieve substantial cuts in
trade-distorting domestic support. Capping Overall Trade-Distorting
Domestic Support (OTDS) alone would not make any significant impact
as the current applied OTDS for the top developed country subsidizers
is below the de minimis. Negotiations should also achieve stricter
disciplines on product-specific support and Green Box support.
2. To ensure fairness and equity, an outcome on Domestic Support should
preserve the special flexibilities for least-developed countries (LDCs),
small and vulnerable economies (SVEs) and net food-importing developing
countries (NFIDCs) and other developing country Members, as envisaged
in the Revised Draft Modalities for Agriculture (TN/AG/W/4/Rev.4).
This would entail:
a. Flexibilities in the level of commitments and the schedules of
b. Exemption for LDCs, SVEs, NFIDCs, and developing country Members
with no Final Bound Total AMS commitments from undertaking any reduction
c. Technical assistance and capacity building to address institutional
and financial constraints faced in the implementation of disciplines.
3. The provisions of Article 6.2 of the Agreement on Agriculture [the
special and differential provisions which the US wants to remove]
shall remain unchanged.
The ACP group has called for a comprehensive limit. It has emphasized
that "all existing Final Bound Total AMS entitlements shall be
For "developed country Members, the total de minimis and Blue
Box supports shall not exceed the existing de minimis levels referred
to under Article 6.4 (a) of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture
(i.e. 5% of a Member's total value of production of a basic agricultural
product in the case of product-specific de minimis and 5% of the value
of a Member's total agricultural production in the case of non-product-specific
de minimis)," the ACP maintained.
In conclusion, the developing and poorest countries face a defining
moment at Buenos Aires which will test their collective resolve to
ensure that there is no demise of the Doha work program and the end
of developmental round of trade negotiations at Buenos Aires. They
have to ensure that there is a clear ministerial statement at Buenos
Aries for continuing work at the WTO based on the Doha work program,
trade envoys said.