Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov17/15)
16 November 2017
Third World Network
South countries insist MC11 outcome must be finalised in Geneva
Published in SUNS #8574 dated 14 November 2017
Geneva, 13 Nov (D. Ravi Kanth) - Uganda along with many countries
said on Friday (10 November) that the outcome document for the World
Trade Organization's eleventh ministerial conference in Buenos Aires
must be finalized in Geneva so as to avert the opaque process that
was adopted in the run-up to the last ministerial meeting in Nairobi,
in 2015, trade envoys told SUNS.
During a meeting convened by the General Council (GC) chair Ambassador
Xavier Carim of South Africa on 10 November, many developing and poorest
countries, particularly Uganda, issued several markers as to how the
process must remain transparent and bottom-up to ensure that it is
consistent with the existing WTO mandates, particularly the Doha work
A large majority of developing and poorest countries indicated their
preference for a ministerial declaration that would clearly set out
the work program, according to trade envoys present at the meeting.
The United States has already conveyed that it doesn't want a ministerial
declaration with a clearly delineated work program.
The US had also indicated that members must come to terms with the
fractured Doha negotiations that no longer exist, according to one
trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
The GC chair sought to know how members intend to proceed i.e. open-ended
meetings or a drafting group to finalize the outcome document in the
next three weeks before the final General Council meeting.
Several developing countries who had indicated their preference for
open-ended meetings earlier suggested that they are willing to consider
the chair's suggestion for a drafting group provided it is well-represented
and balanced, said a trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
Uganda's trade envoy Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr delivered
a credible blueprint as to what the outcome document must contain
as well as the post-Buenos Aires work program.
The outcome document in Part I, he said, should "reiterate the
importance of the WTO as a Multilateral Trading System."
"It should also highlight not only the achievements of the WTO,
but also what it has not been able to achieve," he said, according
to a participant present at the meeting.
Ambassador Aparr said that "members should then commit themselves
to ensure that developing countries and especially LDCs not only integrate
but generate benefit from the system through inter alia supporting
structural transformation and industrialization in line with Agenda
2063: The Africa we want," according to the participant.
The outcome document must emphasize the "development component
of the Organization as being at the heart of the work program,"
The ministerial declaration based on the outcome document "should
stress the IMPORTANCE and SANCTITY of all Ministerial Decisions,"
Ambassador Aparr maintained, according to another participant.
More important, the ministerial declaration "should RECALL and
REAFFIRM all Ministerial Decisions, Mandates and especially the DDA
[Doha Development Agenda] as an unfinished business of the WTO,"
the Ugandan trade envoy maintained, the other participant said.
Ambassador Aparr said the ministerial declaration "should recall
and reaffirm the role and critical importance of the Organization"
that works for all, particularly the major members that are developing
countries by, inter alia, responding to their specific development
needs and concerns.
It must stress that the WTO needs to respond to the current trends
in the international landscape within the parameters of the Marrakech
Agreement, he said, while rejecting calls "to abandon the legislative
history" of the organization and the premature calls for reform.
The work program in the Buenos Aires ministerial declaration should
only "reflect negotiated outcomes, if any, under the DDA"
as well as any outcomes arising from regular work of the WTO, Uganda
Crucially, the post-Buenos Aires work program must give a clarion
call for "concluding the remaining elements of the DDA,"
Ambassador Aparr maintained that "any discussions on a work program
should, to the greatest extent, be undertaken in Geneva."
"Any attempts to develop a detailed modalities-like WP, will
lead us to failure," he warned, suggesting that members tried
it in 2015 and even failed to develop a Post Bali Work Program.
He called for commencing discussions immediately on the work program,
"including on the outcome document."
In the event the outcome document is taken to Buenos Aires, then,
it must be finalized "in the open-ended format," Ambassador
Aparr said, suggesting that Uganda is open to the GC chair's suggestion
for a well-represented drafting group that is based on the diversity
of membership in the organization.
Ambassador Aparr said "issues for further consideration in post
MC11 work program should be listed, such as all three pillars of Agriculture,
Services, Special and Differential Treatment, and LDC issues, etc."
He said "any documents to be presented for decision-making shall
be shared with the members 48 hours before the session so as to enable
"A Committee of the whole should then be called to allow members
to express themselves on the text," said Ambassador Aparr, maintaining
that "the committee of the whole should not meet in the presence
of the media which was the case in Nairobi."
The GC chair must have the sole responsibility of "transmitting
documents to the ministerial conference as agreed and adopted by members
at the last council meeting" scheduled to take place on November
30, said Ambassador Aparr.
He urged the WTO's director-general Roberto Azevedo to convene a meeting
of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) in his capacity as the TNC
chair before "the meeting of the General Council to formally
consider these matters."
Further, appointment of Ministers as Facilitators at Buenos Aires
shall not involve Ministers who are coordinators of regional groups
or focal points on specific subject files, Uganda said, arguing that
"a Minister Facilitator should also not come from a proponent
He said questionable practices involving the appointment of ministers
as facilitators in the last minute on a take-it -or-leave-it basis
Finally, the "ministerial conference should proceed on the basis
of the dates and times communicated" as there is a tendency for
the Secretariat to run meetings beyond the stipulated time in order
to take advantage of "troublesome" delegations that would
have travelled out of the country, he said.
Ambassador Aparr warned that "outcomes should not be engineered,
otherwise the credibility of the outcomes shall be called into question."
Given the strong cautions issued by Uganda and other countries, the
chair will hold another meeting to inform members about the drafting
Ambassador Carim cautioned about the limited time to prepare the outcome
document. He said members do not have an open time-frame, pointing
out that they have to decide the outcome document before the last
General Council meeting on November 30, the envoy said.