G-15 for priority to ‘implementation’, against new issues

by Kanaga Raja

Geneva, 29 May 2001 - Trade and Economy Ministers of the Group of 15 (summit level group of developing countries) at their meeting in Jakarta have called for priority to meaningful resolution of implementation related concerns of developing countries on the Uruguay Round agreements.

The meeting held on 27 May also called on the Group of 15 to reject introduction of no-trade issues such as labour and environmental standards into the WTO agenda, and asked the WTO to focus on accomplishing its current work programme rather than entertaining new issues which will create additional obligations on developing countries.

The G-15 summit level group, formed in 1989, at the conclusion of the ninth non-aligned summit, now consists of 19 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and Iran and Colombia.

According to the report of the meeting of the G-15 Ministers, held on 27 May under the chairmanship of Mr. Luhut Panjaitan, Indonesian Trade Minister (received from Jakarta by fax), on trade and development there were presentations to the meeting by Mr Rubens Ricupero, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, (UNCTAD), Mr Miguel Rodriguez Mendoza, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and Mr Martin Khor, Director of the Third World Network.

The guest speakers shared their reflections with the Ministers on the current trends and major areas of interest and concern to developing countries on the global trade and development agenda, taking into account developments since the Third WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle and preparations for the next WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar.

Highlights of their presentations, the report said, included the evolution of the multilateral trading system and its impact on the prospects of development in developing countries; lessons learnt from the failure of the Seattle Ministerial Conference of the WTO, and the development dimension of trade in the new global economy. The presentations were followed by a fruitful exchange of views.

The report said that the highlights of the comments and observations made in the course of the exchange of views with the guest speakers, included:

·        Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to an open, just and equitable multilateral trading system

·        Priority should be accorded to meaningful resolution of the implementation related concerns of developing countries arising out of the Uruguay Round

Agreements (UPAS) and Decisions

·        The Group of Fifteen should reject the introduction of non-trade issues such as labour and environmental standard into the WTO agenda.

·        The Special and Differential Provisions should be meaningfully operationalised as these are commitments arising out of the UPAS.

·        In light of the importance of the process to the outcome of future trade negotiations, developing countries should be actively involved in setting and influencing the agenda for the Doha Ministerial Conference of the WTO.

·        The WTO and UNCTAD to enhance the capacity of developing countries to participate effectively in international trade and negotiations.

·        That the WTO should focus on accomplishing its current work programme rather than entertaining new issues which will create additional obligations on developing countries.

·        In emphasizing the importance of development dimension, it is stressed that trade should not be seen as an end in itself, but rather as an instrument of development.

·        Development objectives should be accorded higher priority in WTO vis-a-vis the purely trade liberalization objectives per se.

·        Industrialized countries should demonstrate true commitment to trade liberalization by eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers to products of export interest to developing countries, particularly, textiles and agriculture which continue to enjoy increasing degree of protection.

·        It was considered imperative to review the TRIPS Agreement to ensure that it does not conflict with the objective of promoting public health. Accordingly, the interpretation and implementation of the Agreement should recognize the legitimate rights of developing countries to have access to essential drugs at affordable prices to combat pandemic and endemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

·        The need to build confidence in the multilateral trading system in light of the failure of the Seattle Ministerial Conference of the WTO.

·        Concerns were also expressed over the increasing tendency of the developed countries to resort to Free Trade Arrangements and Regional Economic Partnership Agreements.

·        That the multilateral trading system should provide the space for policy options to enable developing countries to pursue the objectives of economic diversification, industrialization, promotion of investment, and to reduce vulnerability to external shocks.

·        The necessity was underscored for consultation and concerted action among G-15 countries in the run-up to the Doha Ministerial Conference of the WTO.

Besides the presentations with the guest speakers and exchange of views on trade and development issues, the meeting also had exchange of views on the new global economy, including challenges of harnessing the potential of the digital era for development, and the future directions on trade, finance and development.

In an exchange of views on the availability of essential drugs and the impact of TRIPS agreement on public health, the report said, “it was underscored that TRIPS should be clarified in a way that enables national measures for providing drugs at affordable prices in a manner responsive to the interests of developing countries.”

The report added: “The Ministers expressed concern on the commercial policies and practices of multinational pharmaceutical corporations, with the active support of the home countries, under the pretext of multilateral trade agreements, to undermine the legitimate rights of developing countries to have access to drugs, on the most favourable terms, for the treatment and prevention of endemic and pandemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria and tuberculosis.

“They therefore called for the mobilisation of international consensus and  material support to ensure the protection of public health, a factor crucial to  economic productivity and poverty alleviation in developing countries.” – SUNS4904

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