How (and who) to draft a draft Declaration?

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 24 Sept 99 -- Discussions at an informal meeting of the General Council Thursday on the drafting of a Ministerial Declaration for Seattle suggests, not only varying views on the various contents, but some sharp differences in approach and procedure.

It was clear that the EC and a few others (pushing new issues and ideas on to a new round) had managed to have a structure in the Chairman's draft (which has obviously been prepared by the secretariat) that had rolled the study issues of Singapore and those flagged at Geneva on to the agenda of the New Round, even though they were in square brackets, and want to keep this advantage.

The others were not ready for this.

The informal General Council meeting was followed in the afternoon by a formal session where more formal proposals for the Seattle ministerial (for negotiations in various areas), were put forward and explained by the proponents.

The General Council chair, Amb. Ali Mchumo of Tanzania, on 8 September, had put forward on his own personal responsibility, an outline text for a draft declaration. And in various comments in Geneva and at the Marrakech G77 meeting, has said it was intended to focus the discussions and enable the preparation of a draft for the Ministers, and that his draft was only a skeleton and developing countries should put flesh on to it.

On Friday, at a symposium on agriculture trade, organized by the FAO in Geneva, Mchumo explained the preparatory process and said he wants to get a draft ready, without square brackets (meaning a fully agreed draft) by 5 November, so that capitals could consider it and come prepared for Seattle.

At the informal Council on 20 Sep - where half a day had been originally allotted for discussing his draft, the meeting became shorter - and the discussions were resumed and continued Thursday morning.

Before Mchumo put forward his draft outline, Switzerland and the CEFTA countries had tabled separately some drafts for a declaration.

On 20 Sep, Pakistan (on behalf also of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Honduras, India, Indonesia and Malaysia) had put forward an alternate approach (to the Mchumo text), a draft outline paper of elements for a Declaration which hewed to the mandate of the General Council for the preparatory process, laid out in paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 of the Geneva Ministerial Declaration (GMD) of May 1998.

At the end of the informal General Council Thursday, the Chairman of the General Council, Amb. Ali Mchumo of Tanzania, had indicated that he would organize a series of consultations and discussions next week on the various items and parts of the declaration to prepare texts that could then be assembled and put together.

There were also suggestions from the EC and other developed countries, that he should prepare a draft declaration and put it forward next week, and discussions should be on that basis.

However, comments and remarks of some delegations, suggested that several key delegations from the developing countries were not agreeable.

It was not clear how these will be resolved, and whether the way forward will be smooth, or the simmering differences (a lingering bye-product perhaps of the DG selection process) will boil up.

On Monday evening the WTO DG, Mike Moore, (at a press conference with World Bank vice-president, Joseph Stiglitz) spoke of need for transparency; and the US and others have been talking of "transparency" and getting public support, and suggesting gimmicks like NGO symposia and allowing NGOs access to the dispute settlement process through right to file amicus curiae briefs.

But the official information flow from the WTO media office to the media is becoming problematical - partly due to the professional inadequacies of the staff in following nuanced discussions and views. But they seem to have no problem in relaying the views of majors like the US, EC or Japan, but are unable to do this for the developing countries and others having contrary views to the WTO establishment.

Partly, it is the failure of countries (who are very short- staffed too) to provide texts to the media office. From the WTO's own briefing on Thursday, it was clear that even when texts had been delivered by some delegations, passing them on to the media or relaying the information in it, is not automatic.

That India and a few others, who had some different perspective on the drafting exercise, had intervened and spoken at the informal meeting, had to be "dragged" out of the media office - even though in this case apparently a copy of the Indian intervention (and that of a few others) were available to the media office - which provided some other texts, but not these, with the explanation there was not enough time to make copies.

In the text of the Indian intervention, provided by the mission later to the media (on request), India answered the EC and others on why the text on behalf of the like-minded-group (LMG) that followed the Geneva Ministerial Declaration (GMD) mandate was a better approach to drafting the declaration.

At the Monday meeting (# 4513), the EC and a few others, had said work on drafting should be on the basis of the Mchumo draft and that the EC was not "wedded" to the GMD, since the Seattle Ministerial Conference was different from that of the Geneva Ministerial Conference.

India's Narayanan said that the LMG joint paper had set out their "vision of the elements of a Ministerial Declaration", and had closely followed the structure of the operational portion of the GMD.

The Indian speech text brought out, what the official briefing failed to disclose, for e.g. that Uruguay (a Cairns group member) had agreed with the LMG approach of building on the GMD.

The EC, Narayanan said, had questioned the need to follow the GMD structure, arguing that the Seattle Ministerial Conference (SMC) was different from the GMC. But the EC had not explained what difficulties would be caused by following the mandate and structure of the GMD.

The General Council's preparatory work for Seattle arose out of the GMD, and there was thus an organic link between the two conferences, and there was a logical sequence in paras 8, 9 and 10 of the GMD, which after all was the outcome of considerable negotiations. The main purpose of the GMD had been to provide guidance for the preparations for Seattle and hence it was neither possible nor desirable to delink the Seattle Ministerial Declaration from the Geneva one, the Indian envoy said.

Commenting on the chairman's own text, Narayanan said that the "comprehensiveness of the text" had come as a big surprise to him. But Mchumo's covering note had made clear that it was meant as a means of focusing and assisting future work, and "not meant to be a basis for negotiations."

The "fairly substantial" number of square brackets in the Mchumo text, indicated the lack of consensus on these elements.

India regretted that in Sec. A of the draft, "Statement of Objectives of the Trading System", there was no element highlighting the importance of achieving growth with equity and stability, nor any reference to need to ensure that the liberalisation WTO promotes is sustainable in the long run. "These are important aspects, we have learnt from the experience of the last few years".

The references in the Mchumo text in this part, "recognition of concerns in connection with implementation of existing commitments and importance of implementing them in letter and in spirit" was also confusing.

Developing countries had been highlighting the problems faced by them in implementing, because of the imbalances, inequities and asymmetries in a number of Uruguay Round agreements. Some developed country friends seem to think that "implementation only means forcing developing countries to fulfil commitments undertaken, whatever may be the difficulty and taking them to dispute settlement panels if the commitments could not be fulfilled."

The elements in the Mchumo text on implementation seemed to combine these two different facets of implementation, India commented.

It was also not clear to India the inclusion among the elements under objectives "coherence in global economic policy making", though Mchumo had now explained it was related to what the Ministers decided on coherence at Marrakech. The Indian envoy also had problems with another element of the Mchumo text, namely "to improve responsiveness of trading system to broader public concerns." He sought clarification on what was meant, adding delegations were not insensitive to broader public concerns.

India was also not agreeable to include any reference in the objective to the WTO dispute settlement system since it was necessary to ensure "that we don't project the WTO as some sort of international court. The political and negotiating character of the WTO should not be subordinated to the dispute resolution role of this organization."

India was happy that Mchumo had put at the top of the future WTO work programme, the implementation questions.

As for the negotiating process, and the "Overall Principles" of negotiations, Sec.B.2 of the text, "equity and transparency" were two important principles that should be added. And the reference in the principles to 'special and differential treatment' should be made into "effective special and differential treatment".

However, India did not understand what was meant or intended, by including in the part on structure, organization and participation of the negotiations, about the "advisory role of the Committee on Trade and Development and the Committee on Trade and Environment", nor was it clear what was implied (in the part on structure) by "benchmarks".

India was not also comfortable with the idea of possible early provisional results, except to the extent relating to implementation.

At the FAO symposium, the Colombian ambassador to the WTO, Nestor Osorio Londono, in explaining the very difficult issues involved in the agriculture negotiations, and the many new issues sought to be brought on the negotiating agenda, a 3-year time-span for the negotiations, and the talk of a single undertaking and 'early harvest' and said that in his view it was too optimistic to think that three years would suffice for resolving some of the important issues. And there could be conflicts between 'single undertaking' and 'early harvest'.

While recognizing that almost every item on subjects for negotiations, except for agriculture and services, were placed in square brackets, Narayanan said it was not clear to him what was sought by including as an element for negotiation "functioning of the WTO system". He could not also understand the inclusion of the term "coherence" among the other elements of a work programme.

"This term 'coherence' is the most fashionable word in Geneva today, but I do not know what exactly it means," Narayanan said.

He also questioned the inclusion, among the items for immediate decisions at Seattle, one relating to "ITA-2", and noted that this was an issue dealt with in the Committee of Participants on ITA, and so far he had seen no paper or proposal on this for Seattle. He was therefore surprised that Mchumo had included this in his draft, even in square brackets.

As for the procedural questions, and the advice of some delegations that Mchumo should now come out immediately with his draft, on the basis that the time was too short, and that whatever might be in the draft there were still bound to be objections and further negotiations.

For India, the important question was not the date by which Mchumo would come up with a draft, but the process by which he would prepare this draft. This process of preparing the draft, Narayanan said, should be "fair, transparent and inclusive". The draft declaration for Singapore, he recalled, evolved through a number of rounds of discussions, and the entire Singapore Ministerial Declaration was not produced in a day. Meetings were held to identify the subjects for inclusion, then intensive discussions were held on the elements that should go into different subjects. After a broad consensus on the elements, further intensive consultations were held before preparing the drafts of the paragraphs. The less contentious portions were finalised first, and the more contentious ones towards the end. But the draft for Singapore was evolved through a participatory process.

Mchumo should organize the work for Seattle in a similar way and, "only a draft emerging through a preparatory process can have the necessary degree of credibility," Narayanan added.

In other comments, Canada gave support to the Mchumo approach, while Honduras and the Dominican Republic spoke in favour of the LMG text. Brazil suggested that there should be in-depth consultations in the coming week, and a single text should be evolved by mid-October, under the authority of the "Chairman alone."

The US while reticent on many of the issues of substance, argued for moving forward and arriving at a text as soon as possible.

Mchumo at the end said that he would hold intensive, informal and open-ended consultations next week and on the basis would circulate a draft initial text by 4 October.

In other comments, the Director-General of the Foreign Office of Japan, Shotaro Oshima, called for the most ambitious and comprehensive round of trade negotiations. Contrary to the views coming out of a variegated set of institutions in the North and of developed country governments themselves, Shotaro Oshima claimed that the Uruguay Round outcome had strengthened and considerably benefited the economies of developing countries, through expansion of trade and the dispute settlement mechanism.

South Africa said that while the Mchumo text was a "safe compilation" of all the issues raised, it did not attempt to provide direction. "By following this route, we may become embroiled in familiar tensions as the Membership becomes increasingly polarised around particular elements identified in this checklist outline," the South African delegate warned and suggested that a way had to be found to shift this paradigm.

The key challenge was to address the issues of development decisively in the new negotiations. Developing countries had to pursue industrialization by processing their natural resources, and negotiations in sectors where the natural advantage lay in resource use of a product should be seen as structural negotiations. There should be an explicit recognition that further liberalisation demands structural adjustment in all economies, including those of developed countries, and multilateral rules should be designed to facilitate such restructuring.

The Declaration should identify aspects of new negotiations that: contribute to structural change and appropriate relocation of production in the global economy; address concerns and imbalances in existing multilateral agreements; extend disciplines to areas in recognition of the increasingly integrated nature of the global economy; establish rules to govern new forms of trade; and contribute to the sustainability and equity of the system including through extension and elaboration of more effective provisions on special and differential treatment to developing countries. Principles should be elaborated to govern the conduct of negotiations and there should be relative reciprocity in exchange of concessions, with commitments and obligations commensurate with levels of institutional and economic development, as well as human and financial capacity. (SUNS4516)

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

[c] 1999, SUNS - All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or posted to any system or service without specific permission from SUNS. This limitation includes incorporation into a database, distribution via Usenet News, bulletin board systems, mailing lists, print media or broadcast. For information about reproduction or multi-user subscriptions please contact < >