Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov17/24)
28 November 2017
Third World Network
Isolated US tries to block MC11 Ministerial Declaration
Published in SUNS #8582 dated 24 November 2017
Geneva, 23 Nov (D. Ravi Kanth) - The United States stood isolated
and exposed on Wednesday (22 November) for its unilateral decision
to block the finalization of the ministerial declaration for the World
Trade Organization's eleventh ministerial conference (MC11) in Buenos
Aires next month, trade envoys told SUNS.
However, an overwhelming majority of countries decided to press ahead
with an outcome document despite opposition from Uncle Sam, said a
South American trade envoy who asked not to be quoted.
India and Rwanda, on behalf of the Group of 90 countries, delivered
the strongest statements yet in defense of the "development"
dimension and the "Doha Development Agenda negotiations"
and how these two issues must be protected in the face of an aggressive
assault by the US and some other countries.
It became utterly clear on Wednesday that the drafting group will
not be able to proceed further after the US chose to block language
for the pre-eminence of the WTO under the Marrakesh Agreement and
elaboration of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations for
preserving the development dimension in Part I and Part 4 of the elements
of the draft ministerial declaration.
For the past six days, the drafting group faced massive opposition
from the US to explicitly mentioning the pre-eminent role of the WTO
and its importance for multilateral trade liberalization under the
Marrakesh Agreement as well as on the elaboration of the DDA negotiations
and the development dimension.
Members of the African Group, the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific)
group of countries, and India insisted that explicit language on these
two issues is imperative for developing countries, said a trade envoy
who asked not to be quoted.
In the face of worsening differences on these two issues, the General
Council (GC) chair, Ambassador Xavier Carim of South Africa, decided
to suspend the meeting on Wednesday morning and called for the convening
of a Heads of Delegations (HoD) meeting later in the evening at 1630
hours, the envoy said.
Ambassador Carim said that he decided to suspend the ongoing work
of the drafting committee for finalizing the ministerial declaration
due to opposition from one member.
The GC chair said it is not possible to work on the ministerial declaration
at this juncture but emphasized that work on all other issues which
are being currently negotiated will continue.
Intervening immediately after the GC chair's statement, the US said
that the one member being referred to by Ambassador Carim is itself.
Although the US was not engaging on most of the issues, it said that
there has been no progress on major issues, including on the US proposals
for institutional reforms.
Many countries had said the US proposal is not part of the mandate
for the Buenos Aires meeting. While some developed countries are ready
to negotiate on the transparency provisions, a large majority of developing
countries had maintained that the US proposal on transparency and
notification requirements changes the rights and obligations of the
In a brief statement at the HoD meeting, the US deputy trade envoy
Chris Wilson suggested that members are not even prepared to address
the US proposals on institutional issues, including the proposals
on transparency requirements in all WTO agreements and notifications.
Therefore, said the US, it cannot agree to a ministerial declaration,
indicating its willingness instead to consider a chair's concluding
statement at Buenos Aires.
In a sharp rebuke to the US stand, Rwanda, on behalf of the G90 countries,
expressed concern over the persistent position of "some members"
to seriously undermine "the development dimension of the WTO
and the WTO itself."
Rwanda's trade envoy Ambassador Dr. Francois Xavier Ngarambe said
"the centrality of development in this institution, is the raison
d'etre of our Membership."
"Indeed," said Ambassador Ngarambe, "we expect that
development, in particular Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT)
provisions, remain at the core of both existing and future WTO Agreements."
"This is crucial, in order to adequately address economic needs
of weak economies for their effective integration in the Multilateral
Trading System," Rwanda emphasized.
Ambassador Ngarambe went on to say that the G90 "strongly reaffirm
the importance of a rules-based, fair and equitable Multilateral Trading
System as enshrined in the Marrakesh Agreement whose objectives and
principles remain our guideline."
Rwanda said the G90 "reiterates its commitment to a process which
must reflect the guiding principles of the WTO and DDA [Doha Development
Agenda] negotiations, namely, full Member participation, inclusive,
transparent, predictable, and bottom-up processes, and consensus-based
Finally, the G-90 reiterates its support to the GC Chair and remains
ready for consistent and constructive engagement for a positive outcome
in Buenos Aires and beyond.
After Rwanda, India took the floor to deliver one of the strongest
messages about the "centrality of the development to the WTO,
particularly the Doha Development Agenda negotiations."
India's deputy trade envoy Aseem Mahajan said India engaged in the
drafting exercise over the past week. He said India "attaches
significant importance to the centrality of the development dimension
of this organization."
"The DDA and related decisions have expressed mandates and all
the past ministerial conferences have reinforced the DDA issues and
mandates," he said.
Moreover, "substantive work has gone into these issues for the
past several years and therefore, there should be no hesitation in
expressing the DDA in the ministerial declaration," India said.
"We also feel there might be differences on the perceived objectives
of the Doha development agenda but there is no ambiguity regarding
the steps to be taken," India said.
"What has been also worrisome to us is the debate about the relevance
of these issues and the difficulties of some members to engage to
take these issues way forward," India said.
The DDA and the development dimension embodying the work program represent
India's core interests as well as the interests of a large majority
of the developing countries, Mahajan said.
"Consequently, we cannot agree for any formulation in the declaration
that says the Doha Development Agenda and the decisions taken in the
past ministerial conferences are no longer relevant," India emphasized.
India urged members not to treat the declaration as an end game in
itself, suggesting that "many issues stand at the core of our
national interests for the forthcoming ministerial meeting."
"This fact cannot be casually undone," India maintained.
Without mentioning the US, India said actions by some members "would
undermine and question the very basis of this organization."
India said if there is no agreement on the text then the drafting
group must clearly reflect "the textual positions of the members
for resolution at the political level."
The European Union said it is a proponent of the ministerial declaration
while suggesting that such a declaration should not be at all costs.
The EU cited the 2009 ministerial meeting to drive home the message
that it is fine with the chair's concluding statement.
China expressed disappointment at the US move to block the ministerial
Argentina, the host for MC11, also expressed concern over the US decision
but maintained that it will continue to work for the ministerial declaration
at Buenos Aires. Argentina said members must continue work on the
Cameroon raised legal issues on the usefulness of the chair's concluding
A large majority of countries, particularly from South America, joined
Argentina in emphasizing the importance of the ministerial declaration.
Chile, Uruguay, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador among
others reiterated their demand for a ministerial declaration as proposed
Several other countries - Egypt, Moldova, Uganda, and Bangladesh -
also called for continuing work on the ministerial declaration.
In his concluding statement, the GC chair said members should concentrate
on other ministerial decisions.
In crux, the Buenos Aires meeting seems now to be poised for an ugly
battle between one member, the United States, on one side, and the
rest of the members on the other for preserving the DDA project and
the development dimension of their demands.
If the rest of the WTO membership, in particular the developing nations,
blink in the high voltage negotiations in Buenos Aires then it will
never be able to have any say in the global trade.