Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov17/23)
Geneva, 24 Nov (D. Ravi Kanth) - The large majority of developing and poorest countries - the Group of 90 - suffered a setback on Thursday (23 November) at the World Trade Organization after the United States, the European Union, and other major industrialized countries refused to agree to any outcome on their core issues for improving special and differential flexibilities at the Buenos Aires ministerial conference next month, trade envoys told SUNS.
The G90 countries have demanded specific improvements in ten WTO covered agreements for strengthening the "development dimension" at the eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires beginning on 10 December.
The group has substantially lowered the number of issues from more than 40 to ten in an attempt to secure credible outcomes on the development dimension of the Doha trade negotiations.
But major industrialized countries - the US, the EU, Japan, and Canada among others - refused to engage on the ten issues, saying they needed evidence to demonstrate how the special and differential treatment (S&DT) provisions on the ten covered agreements did not work, said an African trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
At a meeting of the heads of delegations (HoD) which was followed by a meeting of the proponents with the WTO director-general on Thursday, the coordinators of the ACP group, the African Group, and the least developed countries were told that there will be no outcomes on their demands at Buenos Aires.
There was also opposition from some of the major industrialized countries to include the unresolved issues (of the Doha Work Programme/Doha Development Round) in the post-Buenos Aires work program, said a trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
The G90 countries, according to the trade envoy, will now circulate their draft ministerial decision covering all the ten agreements in which they have sought specific improvements.
It will suggest how WTO members must carry out further negotiations on the unresolved proposals after the Buenos Aires meeting next year.
The main issue to be decided at Buenos Aires will be how the special and differential treatment issues will be treated in the post-Buenos Aires work program and what happens to them next year, the envoy said.
The G90 countries want a clear roadmap for further negotiations on all their unresolved S&DT issues after the WTO's eleventh ministerial meeting.
While the major industrialized countries rejected outcomes on the improvements in special and differential flexibilities in the ten agreements, which have been consistently raised since the launch of the Doha Development Agenda trade negotiations in 2001, the EU, Japan, Canada, and Australia among others want to launch negotiations at Buenos Aires on new issues such as investment facilitation and disciplines for micro, small and medium enterprises, the envoy said.
The EU and its allies also want to establish a new Working Party for overseeing the negotiations to write WTO rules in electronic commerce at Buenos Aires.
"This is sheer hypocrisy and (practice of) double standards by major developed countries that refuse to engage on issues that have been there for the past 16 years but want us to agree to new issues," said a trade envoy from a least-developed country.
The G90 want modest improvements in the following ten major agreements at Buenos Aires:
i. Changes in the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) that will allow developing countries to deviate temporarily from the provisions of Article 2 of the TRIMs agreement;
ii. Changes for deviating from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (GATT 1994) of Articles XVIII. A and XVIII. C to achieve development objectives;
iii. Changes in Article XVIII of GATT - section B concerning balance of payment difficulties, including quantitative restrictions;
iv. Changes in Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures so as to enable longer time period for notification requirements;
v. Changes in Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, including longer time period before the adoption of the measures;
vi. Changes in the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures so as to enable the developing and poorest countries for achieving industrialization;
vii. Changes in the Customs Valuation Agreement for enabling the LDCs to use minimum or reference values up to 10% of their tariff lines when they are in difficulty;
viii. To ensure that developing country products of export interest are accorded meaningful market access as per the 1979 DECISION ON DIFFERENTIAL AND MORE FAVOURABLE TREATMENT, RECIPROCITY AND FULLER PARTICIPATION OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES ("ENABLING CLAUSE");
ix. Improvements in the TRIPS agreement for transfer of technology;
x. Improvements in the guidelines for the accession of LDCs;
The Buenos Aires ministerial meeting (MC11) is thus shaping up as a battleground to decide whether the large majority of developing and poorest countries will have any significant say on their development issues or the industrialized countries will forge ahead with their new issues, trade envoys said.