G77 and China seek redressal of ‘development deficit’ at WTO

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 23 Oct 2001 - - The Group of 77 and China in a declaration Tuesday on the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference at Doha, have emphasized as the priority for any additional negotiations, the implementation issues and redressal of the “development deficit in the WTO”.

While the issues of investment, competition, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation are important, the Group said, any decision to conduct negotiations on these issues should be on a consensual basis, and after a careful assessment of their implications on developing countries and their capacity to engage in negotiations, the G77 and China said.

At a press conference to release the declaration, the chairman of the group, Amb. Jorge Ivan Mora Godoy of Cuba, in responding to some questions said there was no agreement within the group on whether to support a new round or not. A group of countries, a small group, were in favour of a new round, but a large number did not agree and wanted the issues relating to implementation and removing the asymmetry to be settled before going on to a new round.

On the current process in the WTO about the Doha meeting and the drafting of a declaration, Godoy said that it was a difficult process and he was not ready to predict what would happen. The chairman of the General Council had issued a first draft, and the members have been expressing their views. A number of countries, he noted, had joined in putting forward specific amendments to the various parts of the text.

Amb. Federico Cuello of the Dominican Republic, and coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean group said there was no consensus as yet on the launching of a new round and its content. However, members of the group had some varying positions.

In their declaration the G77 and China said they recognized the critical importance of the rules-based multilateral trading system (MTS) and of transparent decision-making process in the WTO managing globalization and reducing the scope for unilateral actions. However, in many respects multilateral rules need to be improved to become more responsive to the trade and development interests of developing countries and to achieve equitable objectives.

Due to the systemic shortfalls in the international economic and trading system, a large majority of the developing countries have, so far, failed to secure a share in the global economic prosperity, and the global economic slowdown/recession was going to affect all including most seriously the developing countries and the poorest among them.

The benefits of the existing MTS continue to elude developing countries.  Progress towards full liberalization in sectors of particular interest to them was lagging behind, and there were significant imbalances between rights and obligations in multilateral trade agreements (MTAs), as well as in conditions of market access, and decreasing participation of developing countries in the world trade.

All these and the asymmetries and the development deficit of the system should receive primacy in all future WTO work programmes in WTO since the key to sustained global economic growth lies in unlocking the potential growth of developing countries. The development dimension must be fully incorporated into the MTS.

Expressing “deep disappointment” on the lack of any meaningful progress on some 104 implementation issues, clearly identified by the developing countries and emanating from the inadequate or faulty implementation of agreements, in letter and spirit, those arising from incorrect interpretation of the provisions of those agreements; and those arising from inherent asymmetries and imbalances within the WTO agreements, the G77 and China reiterated the need for full and faithful implementation and the redressal of existing imbalances arising from the Uruguay Round Agreement as an important step towards confidence building and restoring the credibility of the MTS. These must be meaningfully resolved, with urgency before the 4th Ministerial Meeting and without any extraneous linkages, the G77 and China said.

The UR agreements have not resulted in greater market access to the developed countries’ markets for the exports of developing and least developed countries.  There was continued existence in developed countries of tariff peaks, tariff escalations and other non-tariff barriers such as arbitrary and complex rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures used for protectionist purposes, as well as abuse of the so called trade remedies such as anti-dumping, countervailing duties and safeguard actions particularly in sectors of interest for developing countries including textiles and clothing, agriculture and other agro-industrial products has had a serious negative impact on the trade and development prospects of the developing and least developed countries, preventing these countries from reaping the benefits of trade liberalization.

The Ministerial Meeting in Doha should address the negative impact of these measures on market access opportunities for developing countries with a view to their elimination.

The group also complained that the S&D provisions in the existing UR agreements were mostly in form and not in substance, and said the WTO Agreements should take into account the special development needs of developing countries, including LDCs, in a more meaningful and effective manner.

Developed countries should urgently undertake positive measures to respond to the development, financial and trade needs of developing countries without reciprocal obligations, and ensure their effective applicability in terms of the intended objectives, by making those provisions more precise and effective.

The S&D provisions need to be legally binding and must be operationalised and made enforceable so that these do not remain merely “best endeavour clauses.”

The G77 and China called on WTO members to conclude a Framework Agreement on the S&D Provisions.

On TRIPS, the G77 and China called for operationalising the provisions of the TRIPS agreement on transfer of technology and to ensure the TRIPS rules were supportive of the CBD. The TRIPS review should fully take into account the development dimension. No provision in TRIPS should prevent governments from taking measures to protect public health and nutrition and ensure affordable access to essential medicines.

The TRIMS agreement should also be reviewed and appropriate amendments made to that agreement to enable developing countries to pursue their goals of development and rapid industrialization including indigenisation.

The G77 and China also called for meaningful integration of the textiles and clothing sector.

In setting out these goals and objectives for the Doha ministerial, the G77 and China said that measures to address implementation and mandated negotiations including the review of various WTO agreements “already constitute a broad agenda for work.”

While issues such as trade and investment, competition, transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation, were important, “any decision to conduct negotiations on these issues in WTO should be on a consensual basis and would need to be carefully assessed in respect of any implication on developing countries and their capacity to engage in negotiations,” the G77 and China said.

Also, proposals of the developing countries to redress the development deficit in WTO must constitute first priority for any additional negotiations.

In other comments, the G77 and China called for actions to achieve universality of the WTO as soon as possible, and for appropriate assistance to developing countries seeking accession. Such countries should be offered terms of accession that do not exceed or unrelated to commitment of developing countries and LDCs in the WTO.

WTO members should refrain from placing excessive or onerous demands on applicants from developing countries, and there was a need for transparent, streamlined and accelerated accession process in keeping with WTO rules and disciplines. – SUNS4994

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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