LMG elements paper for draft declaration

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva 20 Sep 99 -- A group of eight like- minded developing countries put forward at the General Council Monday their own draft outline for a Ministerial Declaration at Seattle, which picks up on the mandate to the General Council from the Geneva Ministerial Conference (GMC) on the preparations for Seattle.

The draft, "Elements of the Ministerial Declaration," introduced by Pakistan (on behalf of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan), in effect implicitly rejects a chairman's draft outline that the like- minded group (LMG), and several others, consider to be outside the GMC mandate and framework, and prejudicial to the interests and positions of developing countries.

On 8 Sep, the chairman of the General Council, Amb. Ali Mchumo of Tanzania, had put forward on his own responsibility a draft outline.

The General Council discussions on a draft declaration, which began Monday is expected to be continued on Thursday. A late start of the meeting (a 90-minute delay, according to some participants, since some key delegations were late to come), and an end to the meeting at 1800 hours (for technical reasons - non- availability of interpretation), resulted in the discussions having to be put off to Thursday.

One developing country diplomat said that in what is becoming a major problem, deliberately or otherwise and despite protests and statements at the General Council from developing countries several times, many informal and formal meetings of various WTO bodies are scheduled more or less at the same time, with the result developing countries find themselves unable to effectively participate; and, if they don't things, or if they are not present, meetings still go ahead and things are cooked up against them.

But as in the General Council Monday, when key major delegations don't turn up in time, everything is held up, or other delegations refuse to speak (as has happened in the past) because the US or EC is not there, the diplomat complained. But the diplomat agreed the fault lay with developing countries in not taking a stand against the WTO's ways of functioning and the innumerable informal consultations, formal meetings without quorums etc.

Over and above other meetings Monday, there was a joint World Bank/WTO seminar, "Developing Countries and the Millennium Round" - aimed clearly at persuading developing countries that they stood to benefit by further dozes of liberalisation at the WTO by launching a new round.

At the informal General Council, in some preliminary comments on the chairman's draft, Australia, and later the EC, sought to frown upon the elements paper from the like-minded group, and sought to make the Chairman's text to be the only basis for further work -- as one developing country diplomat put it, almost a replay of the DG selection tangle, where the chairman was put into a difficult situation.

But Mchumo has been careful not to stake the chair's prestige behind the draft outline for a declaration, and said (at the Marrakech G77 meeting) that the draft was aimed at focusing discussions and that delegations would have to put flesh and blood on the skeleton.

Apart from the Chairman's draft outline, and the elements paper by the LMG Monday, Switzerland and the CEFTA group (of East Europeans) have also put forward some draft papers for a declaration.

In opening the discussions Monday, Mchumo said that the second week of October should be a target date for agreeing on the draft, and said he was ready to hold informal discussions to fill in points of his draft under various headings.

The elements paper from the LMG has eight parts, all hewing to the outline in paras eight, nine and ten of the Geneva Ministerial Declaration.

Part A of the elements paper would have some preamble/opening paras in the draft declaration dealing with importance of the multilateral trading system, a brief collective assessment of the global economy (mixed picture of growth and disparities), and recalling paras 8, 9 and 10 of the GMD.

Part B addresses exclusively, under various indents, the "Implementation" issues:

* assessment of implementation in accordance with para 8 of the GMD;

* decisions relating to implementation issues to be taken at Seattle, inter alia on - TRIPS; TRIMs; Agriculture; including Netfood Importing Developing Countries; Accelerated integration of textiles; clarification/strengthening of disciplines on Anti- dumping, subsidies, rules of origin, SPS, TBT; Customs Valuation; implementation of recommendations of completed reviews;

* further work on Implementation - issues to be covered (any which remain from the above, and others such as strengthening of, and operationalisation of best endeavour S&D provisions);

The elements paper suggests that to address implementation issues which may remain outstanding, a special mechanism should be established with a mandate to complete its work within a year.

Part C of the LMG paper deals with Mandated Negotiations and Reviews and under it lists in separate indents: Agriculture, objective and mandate of negotiations including scope and time frame; Services mandate of the negotiations including scope, objectives and time-frame, due account of the assessments of the commitments in Trade in Services as stipulated in Art.XIX of GATS; and Reviews of TRIMS, TRIPS, SPS, TBT, SCM etc.

Part D of the elements paper is on "Follow up to High level Meetings on LDCs."

Part E is on "Continuation of the study process on issues initiated in Singapore": Trade and Investment; Trade and Competition; Trade Facilitation; and Transparency in Government Procurement.

All these in the Mchumo text have been put, within square brackets, as items to be negotiated in a New Round.

Part F of the LMG elements paper is titled "New Initiatives aimed at liberalizing world trade and adapting the multilateral trading system so as to enhance its support of the development process." Under this are listed as separate indents: access to technology, trade and finance, relationship of trade with debt, commodity price (terms of trade).

Part G relates to accession, and participation of acceding countries.

The final part H deals with Organization of work - scope, structure and time-frame.

In introducing the paper, Pakistan explained that their outline and proposals flow from the Geneva Declaration, and follows the structure of the declaration and its mandate for the General Council preparatory process.

In other comments, New Zealand and Australia commended the chairman's text, and Australia argued that the discussions and further work should be based on the Chairman's draft. The EC towards the end said it was not 'wedded' to the structure of the General Ministerial Declaration, and argued for further work on the basis of the chairman's text.

Pakistan in its own comments said that any draft should have the structural balance of the Geneva Declaration, should not prejudice the positions of any member on the issues, and should be clear and specific.

Dominican Republic, supported by Malaysia, said that the draft should have a different structure from that proposed by the chairman, and should be strictly based on paras 8, 9 and 10 of the GMD.

According to Japan, the primary objective should be to launch a new round of negotiations at Seattle, a comprehensive one, and Japan would encourage the chairman to lead the drafting exercise as soon as possible. Japan also favoured a separate negotiating body for agriculture negotiations, and some form of a mid-term review. Agreement on the draft should be reached before Seattle, and there should be provisions in it for decisions at Seattle about the DSU review, transparency in government procurement and an ITA-II.

The United States in a formal proposal on 'Implementation', has in effect proposed shoving all the implementation problems on to the WTO bodies concerned, with the General Council exercising surveillance and monitoring - and thus effectively taking these issues out of any new round that may be launched.

The US would want the Seattle Ministerial Conference merely to take decisions to authorize the General Council to ensure identification and provisions to meet needs of technical assistance for implementation; for sufficient flow of information on progress and specific plans of members on implementation where transition periods other than those expiring on 1 Jan 2000 are concerned; and take appropriate steps to streamline notification obligations.

The long US paper, under 'illustrative areas of focus,' makes clear for e.g., that, for the US, the priority is full implementation of TRIPS obligations by developing country members no later than 1 January 2000. The implementation work in TRIPS, as the built-in agenda, should be to begin from 1 January 2000 review of implementation of TRIPS by developing countries and completing it by end 2001.

The US also wants improvement of TRIPS - examining the adequacy, effectiveness and enforcement of standards and principles concerning availability, scope, use and enforcement of IPRs, and keeping pace with changing technology, internet. It notes that amendments to TRIPS, if they provide for higher levels of IPRs, could be referred to the Ministerial Conference for adoption by the ministerial conference on the basis of a consensus decision of the TRIPS Council.

In comments on some of the formal proposals as from Colombia, on changes to anti-dumping, subsidies and some other agreements, for extension of transition periods in TRIMs etc, the US made clear its opposition. (SUNS4513)

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

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