STATEMENT BY BARBADOS AT WTO GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING, 31 OCT 2001
We wish to thank you, the Director General and the Secretariat for the very hard work which all of you have undertaken during the past weeks. However, we must let you know that we are deeply disappointed with the end product of that hard work.
Like many things in this life, depending on the vantage point from which delegations view this text, they will react to it in a particular manner. Those who stand to benefit most will describe it as a “balanced text” and will encourage those of us who will benefit accept it as a good working document. However, countries like mine whose share of world trade is so insignificant that the WTO Secretariat has had so much difficulty in quantifying it that they record it as 0.00%, are compelled to regard the draft Declaration as falling short of what is necessary to enable us to rise above that level.
Mr. Chairman, this is the context within which we go to Doha and within which we must, of necessity, view the text before us. Regrettably, we must admit that there is nothing in the text which causes us to feel that our situation will be any different after Doha except that we will come away with more obligations but still with 0.00% of world trade. That is not to say that we do not acknowledge that at last there seems to be a genuine attempt to address some of the concerns of the developing countries, especially the LDCS, but simply to state that perhaps because of a genuine underestimation and misinterpretation of the nature and extent of the problems of developing countries, the attempts to address them in this text, though laudable, are still in our view far short of what is required. Mr. Chairman, that is our contention and we believe that a careful examination of the language which is used in the paragraphs of interest to the developed countries and that which is used in the paragraphs of interest to the developing countries will show why we are concerned. For that reason Mr Chairman we accept the suggestion that we should avoid focussing on national issues and that we should focus on the wider interests of the global community. That is exactly what we are doing when we point out that an outcome which will lead to more skewed distribution of the benefits of international trade than currently exists will not serve those wider interests and will certainly not enhance the image of this Organisation in the eyes of those who look at it in a critical and objective way.
For these reasons, Mr. Chairman, we feel it is necessary to carry out some analysis of the texts. Generally we support the concerns raised by several developing countries on issues such as the absence of clearly defined objectives and result-oriented language in what are meant to be the’ operative paragraphs on development-related issues, the omission of references to the necessity of preferences and the problems of Net-Food Importing Developing Countries, the proposal of negotiations in the Singapore issues, and the failure to set up a study programme on the impact of industrial tariff reductions.
I will now make some comments on some specific paragraphs.
With regard to the preambular paragraphs 1 to 4, Barbados is of the view that the minimal amendments that have been undertaken in Rev.1 represent a rather feeble attempt to respond to criticism from developing countries that (a) the draft Declaration does not pay sufficient attention to development issues and that (b) the preambular paragraphs suggest, incorrectly, that all Members have benefited from the multilateral trading system. Many developing country delegations, including Barbados, have emphasized that a major lacuna of the text is the absence of a concrete action plan on the development dimension. These delegations have noted that the text should focus on the issue of the redressal of the imbalances existing in the multilateral trading system and the objective of a more equitable distribution of gains.
With regard to the specific issue of regional trade agreements, Barbados would have wished to see stronger positive language on regional trade agreements highlighting, inter alia, their usefulness as dynamic building blocs.
With regard to paragraph 5, Barbados is of the view that the deletion of part of the last sentence of this paragraph is unfortunate since it limits the coherence debate to the Bretton Woods institutions. Other intergovernmental organisation such as UNCTAD and the FAO for example, have strong development perspectives in trade-related matters and should therefore be included in coherence consultations.
With regard to paragraph 6, it should be recalled that many delegations had expressed concerns about the open-ended nature of the original paragraph. The amendments in the revised text clarify the concept of sustainable development, but do not otherwise address the concerns expressed. It should be recognised that the retention of the phrase “they deem appropriate”, to describe allowable measures for health, safety and environmental protection, may still allow scope for the use of unilateral actions which may not be consistent with internationally agreed, objective standards.
With regard to paragraph 7, we note that this new paragraph on services regulation was extracted the original paragraph 5 in JOB 140 in an attempt to clarify the text. However, such a reference to the right to regulate should be more properly incorporated into paragraph 15 of the text.
With regard to paragraph 10, Barbados would wish to note that the fact that no amendment has been made to the to the text of this paragraph ignores the concerns expressed by several developing countries about the need for clarification in the text as well as for the need to emphasize the element of participation. It will be recalled that some developing country delegations have suggested that this paragraph should focus on internal transparency alone and should address the question of transparent and inclusive decision-making process. It is Barbados’ view that the revised text is inadequate because it does not acknowledge, or seek to redress, the existing problem of lack of inclusion and of transparency in the WTO decision-making process.
With regard to paragraph 11, Barbados notes that although there is still no consensus on a new round, this text, which remains unchanged from the first draft, has been formulated with the objective of launching a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. Barbados still has significant concerns on this matter.
With regard to paragraph 12, Barbados shares the concerns expressed by many delegations on the paucity of results from the implementation review process and the lack or compliance with the May 3 General Council decision to complete work on implementation issues before the 4th Ministerial Conference.
With regard to paragraph 13, we agree with other delegations which have noted that, there should be specific reference in this text to the concerns of Net-Food Importing Developing Countries and preference-receiving countries.
With regard to paragraph 15, Barbados welcomes the revision of the language on the progress of the negotiations, from, “note with satisfaction” to “recognize the work already undertaken”, since we considered that the original language to have been an inaccurate statement. We consider that it is necessary for the modalities with regard to credit for autonomous liberalization and the assessment of trade in services to be completed before the starting dates of the request and offer phases are agreed to.
With regard to paragraph 16, we would wish to note that the revised text does not reflect the fact that there is still an absence of consensus on the matter of these negotiations. In the eventuality of future negotiations, we consider that the removal of the explicit reference in the text to “less than full reciprocity” for developing countries is unfortunate. We are also concerned that the revisions to the text have ignored the calls repeatedly made by developing country delegations that any future industrial product negotiations will have to be on the basis of bound tariffs. We note the introduction of the reference to the reduction or elimination of “high tariffs” and judge it to be unfortunate. It should be recalled that many developing countries have repeatedly called for the completion of a study process aimed at analysing the effects of previous and future tariff reductions on developing country economies prior to the launch of new market access negotiations. We have difficulty with the fact that this call, which we fully support, has been ignored.
With regard to paragraph 17, we note that this new paragraph has been inserted in response to concerns expressed by many Members that there should be a reference in the main Declaration to the separate declaration on intellectual property and public health access to medicines (circulated as JOB(01)/ISS). However, we consider that the phrase “by promoting both access to existing medicines and research and development into new medicines” may be seen as seeking to prejudice the scope of the separate Declaration. It is important for Barbados that the scope of the separate Declaration include TRIPS & public health issues generally since essentially what we are seeking is reassurance that the TRIPS Agreement does not undermine governments’ ability to address their .public health needs.
With regard to paragraph 18, we are of the view that the deletion of the results-oriented language pertaining to the extension of geographical indications is unfortunate. We consider that concrete action should be taken on this issue at Doha.
With regard to paragraph 19, we consider that these amendments serve to provide some clarification to the text. However, it is our view that the issue of non-violation complaints should remain as a matter to be addressed by the Ministers at Doha. A separate paragraph on non-violation complaints would be appropriate.
With regard to paragraphs 20 & 21, we would wish to note that these revised texts ignore the fact that there is still an absence of consensus on the matter of negotiations in these areas. The new texts effectively ignore the positions articulated by many developing countries, including Barbados, that (a) it is neither appropriate nor necessary, at this stage, to commence negotiations on these issues with a view to formulating binding rules, (b) that negotiations in these areas should commence only on the basis of explicit consensus and (c) that the existing study processes should be continued on the basis of the mandates contained in the Singapore Ministerial Declaration. It may be useful to recall that with respect to the issues of investment and competition policy, the Singapore Ministerial Declaration states “It is clearly understood that future negotiations, if any, regarding multilateral disciplines in these areas, will take place only after an explicit consensus decision is taken among WTO Members regarding such negotiations”. While the amendments in JOB 140 Rev. 1 delete any explicit reference to negotiations, the paragraphs nonetheless effectively bind Members into preparations for negotiations in investment and competition policy. The 2-phase approach which is utilised merely delays the launch of negotiations until the Fifth Ministerial Conference. Furthermore, we feel that the precedent of an opt-in/opt-out (i.e. plurilateral) approach to negotiations is extremely dangerous and may have grave systemic consequences.
With regard to paragraphs 22 & 23, we note that the amendments to these texts would seem to take into account the concerns expressed by some members on the issue of compliance. However it is our view that the deletion of the word “compliance” does not remove the spectre of the concept from the amended language. We note the inclusion of the linkage between implementation of the outcome on one hand and developing countries’ capacity and technical assistance provided on the other hand. However, we consider that the commitment to technical assistance is fatally flawed by the qualification “adequate”. In effect, it must be recognised that the substantially unchanged texts effectively ignore the lack of consensus on the appropriateness or necessity of negotiations in this area and the opposition of many Members to the formulation of binding rules in these areas.
With regard to paragraph 29 on small economics, we would wish to note that this text has been supported by a number of delegations. My delegation has indicated that the text, as drafted, is the minimum that we are willing to accept on the issue. We would also take this opportunity to state that we expect that the conduct and results of this Work Programme on Small Economies will be treated with the same level of commitment, focus and resolution as the elements of the WTO’s work programme which are being proposed for negotiation.
With regard to paragraphs 30 & 31, my delegation is disappointed that only cosmetic amendments have been made despite the views expressed by many developing countries that the texts should be strengthened through the inclusion of a decision to establish Working Groups on these issues as requested by the proponents.
With regard to paragraphs 32, 33 & 34, we consider that the text could be strengthened, inter alia, through an affirmation of support of the work carried out by UNCTAD.
With regard to paragraphs 35 & 36, it is to be noted that LDC Members have indicated that they are not satisfied with the revised text, which they consider limited and we support their view.
With regard to paragraph 37, we consider that the language of this text is weak, lacks conviction and should be more results-oriented. The language can be strengthened, inter alia, by making reference to the delivery of S&D on the basis of size or level of development. In addition, there should be reference to the need, raised constantly by developing countries, to make S&D treatment binding. We should also include reference to concrete measures to be taken with regard to the proposed Framework Agreement on Special and Differential Treatment.
With regard to paragraphs 38 to 45, we are concerned that the revised texts remain effectively unchanged, barring the addition of new language in paragraph 43. This lack of substantive amendment ignores many concerns expressed by many developing countries, including the concern that there is no need for the creation of a separate Trade Negotiations Committee, since any future negotiations can be conducted in the relevant existing bodies under the supervision of the General Council.
In concluding, Mr. Chairman, let me indicate that we have difficulty with the present text and the manner, and format, in which it is proposed that the text will be transmitted to our Ministers. Our major concern is that unless there are changes to the text, the marginalisation about which Ministers were so “deeply concerned” in 1998 in Geneva will become a reality under the terms of this Declaration. Mr. Chairman, we are sure that everyone will understand the reason for our apprehension because having a share of trade of 0.00% is certainly nothing for us to be proud about.