Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar18/03)
8 March 2018
Third World Network
US slammed over unilateral trade measures and AB blockage
Published in SUNS #8636 dated 7 March 2018
Geneva, 6 Mar (D. Ravi Kanth) - A large majority of developing and
developed countries slammed the United States at the World Trade Organization
for initiating unilateral trade measures to undermine the multilateral
trading system as well as for jeopardizing the dispute settlement
mechanism by constantly blocking the selection process for filling
vacancies at the Appellate Body, trade envoys told SUNS.
At an informal Heads of Delegations meeting of the Trade Negotiations
Committee (TNC) on Monday, many members called for intensifying the
negotiations to eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated subsidies
that are contributing to the depletion of global fish stocks.
Several developing and least developed countries (LDCs) also called
for appropriate special and differential treatment flexibilities.
A large majority of developing and least-developed countries, including
South Africa, India, and China among others, insisted that the unresolved
Doha issues must be addressed during the next two years, particularly
by focusing on the "developmental" issues in agriculture,
industrial goods, and services sectors.
Members of the African Group barring Nigeria, the Africa, Caribbean,
and Pacific (ACP) group, and India among others emphasized the centrality
of securing multilateral outcomes at the WTO, and insisted that multilateral
consensus as set out in paragraph 34 of the Nairobi ministerial declaration
is a prerequisite for considering the new plurilateral initiatives
on electronic commerce, investment facilitation, disciplines for micro,
small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and trade and gender.
"On new issues for negotiations, guidance was provided in the
Nairobi Declaration in paragraph 34 on how these are to be treated,"
said Guyana, on behalf of the ACP group.
"On new issues, our consistent view has been that these can only
be negotiated after consensus has been reached among the membership,"
said Ambassador J. S. Deepak, the Indian trade envoy.
China, Pakistan, and Nigeria among the developing countries openly
spoke in favour of discussing the plurilateral initiatives on investment
facilitation, electronic commerce, and disciplines for MSMEs.
But, in a member-driven organization, the WTO director-general Roberto
Azevedo has stepped up his campaign for the new issues along with
the sponsors of the specific plurilateral initiatives.
The European Union, New Zealand, Uruguay, Switzerland, Colombia, Mexico,
and the United States among others pitched hard for open-ended plurilateral
initiatives at the WTO knowing full well there is no multilateral
consensus yet on any of the initiatives.
The unilateral pronouncements of the US President Donald Trump for
levying safeguard duties of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum, claiming
national security considerations, as well as its continued blocking
of the selection process for filling three Appellate Body (AB) vacancies
at the WTO dominated the TNC proceedings.
Without naming the United States in their interventions, many developed
and developing countries spoke about the specific safeguard duties
on steel and aluminum being considered by the US as well as the repeated
blocking of the selection process for filling three vacancies at the
"We share the concerns that some Members have expressed on recent
developments that could lead to new tariff barriers and even a trade
war," said Ambassador Deepak of India, arguing that "application
of tariffs, we believe, should respect the ceiling of bound rates
agreed to at the WTO."
Without naming the US for blocking the AB selection process, India
asked: "what is it to invest effort in the negotiation of rules
if they cannot be effectively implemented and impartially enforced?"
"In this context," said the Indian envoy, India remains
concerned along with "many other members" over the delay
in selection and appointments of members to fill vacancies in the
"This impasse," India said, "not only threatens the
functioning of the Appellate Body, which is a key pillar of the dispute
settlement system of this organization, but also poses a serious threat
to the credibility of the WTO itself."
South Africa's trade envoy Ambassador Xavier Carim warned that "the
unresolved matter of the Appellate Body and the emerging systemic
questions on the WTO enforcement mechanism", if not addressed
soon, "will cast a shadow - and soon overwhelm - all the other
work of the organisation."
Aside from these two issues arising from the threats posed by the
US to the multilateral trading system in general and the WTO in particular,
the developing and least-developed countries demanded urgent negotiating
outcomes on the unresolved Doha work program issues, including the
centrality of development in the multilateral trade outcomes.
Rwanda, on behalf of the African Group, said it stood "ready
to engage constructively on all issues in accordance with their respective
mandates, notably under the DDA."
Guyana, on behalf of the ACP group, said "the call to review,
repair and reform the global trading framework is not new", maintaining
that "it was, indeed, the basis for the Doha Development Agenda
(DDA)." "We are, however, at another important juncture
where dissatisfaction with the process of arriving at convergence
and the mode of agenda setting needs careful attention while preserving
the principle of consensus."
"The discussion on the development issue and priorities of the
multilateral trading system which trade ministers started in Buenos
Aires must continue as a core aspect of the post-MC11 agenda,"
"Moreover, our members have raised concerns that no attention
has been given to finding ways to agree on the DDA agreement-specific
special and differential treatment proposals," the ACP group
said, emphasizing that "these are core unfinished work under
South Africa's trade envoy Ambassador Xavier Carim said members lost
an opportunity to discuss the burning issues in the global trading
system at Buenos Aires. Instead of discussing on "trade policy
priorities and considering the scope for common efforts to address
the backlash against globalisation and trade, and the growing challenges
of inequality, job insecurity and development," members lost
an "opportunity to consider a more positive approach to foster
an inclusive, developmental multilateralism."
Ambassador Carim said that despite "divergences on the DDA mandate
and on which specific issues to take forward", members agree
on the issues to take forward, but "disagree on how." "We
also disagree on whether to even consider non-Doha issues," South
The G33 developing country coalition led by Indonesia, India, South
Africa, the African Group, and the ACP group all called for accelerating
work on the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for
"It is important to have trade rules that enhance food security
and support the fight against hunger," said India's trade envoy
Ambassador Deepak, arguing that "this would also facilitate the
achievement of a number of sustainable development goals, relating
to the elimination of poverty, malnourishment and hunger to which
we are all committed."
"The work on obtaining a permanent solution on public stockholding
for food security for all developing countries and LDCs, should, therefore,
remain an integral part of our agriculture work program," India
Insisting that global trade-distorting farm subsidies should be reformed
on a war-footing as "many developed countries are not exporting
their competitiveness in agriculture but rather are exporting subsidies,"
India called for "negotiations on disciplining the most trade-distorting
form of domestic support, namely, the AMS beyond de minimis, and flexibility
to apply it without limit on specific products, must be a priority."
Ambassador Carim of South Africa said that "work on fishery subsidies
can proceed relatively quickly but we should not underestimate the
While there is "some sense that we will need a period of reflection
on how best to re-engage the other Doha issues," said South Africa,
"it is clear that trade distorting domestic support, cotton,
food security, industrialisation, and development will continue to
command the interest of most Members."
"The DDA and previous ministerial decisions already offer guidance
for this work," added South Africa.
On services, particularly on domestic regulation in services, India
called for " holistic approach" to address the numerous
difficulties which services suppliers, particularly those of developing
countries, face in the form of complex regulatory regimes of developed
India also asked that the WTO must "take up work to make mandatory,
disclosure requirements for genetic resources and traditional knowledge
in patent applications along with prior informed consent and benefit
sharing." "This is also one of the outstanding implementation
issues from the Doha work program," India said.
The African Group and South Africa said the continent's primary economic
objectives are set in "Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want"
as they relate to integration, industrialization and structural transformation.
"We need a WTO that enables these objectives - but at a minimum,
we need a WTO that does not impede them," said Ambassador Carim
of South Africa.
In sum, the informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting revealed
that the next two years are going to be an intense struggle between
those developing and poorest countries seeking "developmental
multilateralism" based on the Doha Development Agenda, and those
industrialized countries and their allies wanting plurilateral outcomes
in electronic commerce, investment facilitation, and disciplines for
MSMEs so as to partition the multilateral trading system in the 21st