Developing countries say ‘No’ to negotiations on ‘new issues’
The following are extracts from the statements presented at the WTO by the Ambassadors or senior officials of several developing countries that expressed opposition to the launching of negotiations on the ‘new issues’ or ‘Singapore Issues’ (investment, competition, transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation) and to the establishment of elements of a new round. The statements were made during the informal WTO General Council meeting held on 2-3 October to discuss the 26 September draft Ministerial Declaration.
...We have been clearly pointing out that we are not in a position to commence negotiations with a view to make binding rules in any one of these four areas. ... For us, these four subjects have to be dealt with in the framework of the Singapore Ministerial Declaration. A solemn commitment was given by our major trading partners to my Minister at Singapore that there will be no pressure on us to negotiate rules in these areas, and as a compromise, my Minister was asked to accept a non-prejudicial study programme with a clear stipulation that negotiations will commence in these areas only when there is ‘explicit consensus’. ... it is absolutely clear that there was no consensus in favour of changing the study mode into negotiation mode in respect of any one of these subjects.
... We have a major concern with regard to paragraphs 36 to 39 and 42. When I first glanced through your draft, I got the impression that there was no ‘round’ in it. But subsequently, when I looked at paragraphs 36 to 39 and 42, all ideas, concepts and trappings which go to make a ‘round’ have been included in these paragraphs. We feel these paragraphs closely mirror the Punta Declaration. ...
... We have an uncomfortable feeling that reference to a single undertaking in the draft might be a pointer towards inclusion of new subjects, a prospect which we do not look forward to. Moreover, your paragraph 42 is so ambiguous and open-ended that many developing countries whose memories about the Uruguay Round are still fresh genuinely feel threatened by this paragraph.
... We suggest that paras 36 to 39 and 42 in the text be deleted. Instead there should be a simple text indicating that negotiations and other items of work envisaged in the Work Programme will be conducted in the respective existing bodies in the WTO under the overall supervision of the General Council. We would also like to state that in considering the balance in the results of the Work Programme, the currently existing imbalances should also be taken into consideration so that final results ensure overall balance for developing countries, taking into account both the existing obligations and the new obligations arising out of the Work Programme.
... On the new issues initiated in Singapore, I would like to state that Indonesia cannot accept any language in the Declaration that makes references to negotiations on these issues. Consequently, Indonesia cannot accept paragraphs 18 (investment), 20 (competition policy), 22 (transparency in government procurement) and 23 (trade facilitation). As far as paragraphs 19 and 21 are concerned, Indonesia is not comfortable with the existing draft. However, Indonesia is prepared to agree on the proposal for the extension for the work in the working groups provided that the work will be focused on addressing various concerns of those members who have difficulties with the proposed agreements, including the examination of the potential cost of any possible agreements.
... As you may recall, in the informal meeting in June, my delegation stated that paragraphs under organisation and management of work will depend on the decision to be taken at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, specifically with regards to the proposal for future WTO negotiations. Therefore it would not be possible for my delegation to make any comment prejudging the outcome of the Doha Ministerial Conference. In our view, at this stage these paragraphs should be put in brackets. ...
... Given the discussions on the new issues that have taken place so far in the preparatory process, we believe that the alternative language you have set out in paragraphs 19 and 21 are the more desirable basis for moving forward.
On trade facilitation ... Jamaica seriously doubts whether binding commitments are a realistic goal. The discussions to which we were party did not suggest that this would be a basis for consensus. ...
...Paragraphs 36-42 introduce a number of structures and concepts regarding the Work Programme which we have encountered in another context, in another process, and we will have to contemplate whether these are necessary and appropriate in the context of what is only a Work Programme and in light of the institutional structures ushered in with the WTO. ...
... On the new issues or Singapore issues, Kenya believes that starting negotiations on these issues would not be appropriate. ... Kenya is concerned that multilateral rules in these proposed new issues will lead to further obligations that will again limit our development options and prospects. We are therefore not in a position to agree to start negotiations on these new issues. Instead, the work of the working groups on the four Singapore issues should continue. ...
On the section on the organisation of the Work Programme, we find that the way it has been drafted implies that the future work of the WTO will be organised around the modalities of a new round. These elements include ending all negotiations by a certain date, forming a Trade Negotiations Committee, the single undertaking and possible additions of negotiating topics at the next Ministerial Conference.
... The experience of the comprehensive Uruguay Round shows that developing countries were disadvantaged by a broad-based round of negotiations with a single undertaking. We have yet to recover from the negative effects of the previous round and the seemingly entrenched problems of implementation ... Kenya is therefore not in a position to agree to a broad-based round.
LEAST-DEVELOPED COUNTRIES (STATEMENT BY TANZANIA ON BEHALF OF THE LDCs):
... LDCs cannot agree with the parts of the draft relating to the Singapore issues. The LDC Ministers indicated that the four Singapore issues were not yet ripe for negotiations as the issues were complex and the LDCs were not able to fully understand the implications for them. Therefore the LDCsÕ position on the sections on new issues is as follows:
[On trade and investment]: We are unable to accept para 18. We prefer the option of para 19. ...
[On trade and competition]: We are unable to accept para 20. We would rather prefer the option of para 21.
[On transparency in government procurement]: We are unable to accept para 22. LDCs are not prepared to launch negotiations in this area and hence the study process in the working groups has to continue.
[On trade facilitation]: We are unable to accept para 23. We are not prepared to launch negotiations in this area. ...
With regard to the last section on ‘organisation and management of the Work Programme’, paras 36-42 ... our Ministers in Zanzibar were very clear that LDCs are not in a position to undertake broad-based negotiations involving many new issues due to lack of capacity to negotiate and implement new commitments. What we interpret in this section is that we are preparing for a broad-based programme of negotiations with the inclusion of a number of new issues for which we are not prepared as already indicated. ...
... In all fairness, the Chair has forwarded two options on the issues of investment and competition. But the fact remains that the options are in direct opposition to each other. We would again, on this occasion, stress that Malaysia cannot support the start of negotiations on these issues. We wish to point out that there were also fundamental difficulties expressed by delegations, including my own, as to the necessity of starting negotiations on transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation. These have not been reflected in the draft. We would have preferred alternative texts that would give a fair reflection of where positions differ.
... Any effort to insist on the inclusion of new issues to be part and parcel of the agenda of the new round will only prolong the stalemate and will not allow for the consensus in Doha for the launch of a new round.
... There is no consensus among Members on starting negotiations on the Singapore issues. ... We therefore cannot agree on commencing any negotiations until the study phase is over.
... Paragraph 37: The overall conduct of the negotiations should be supervised by the General Council. There is no need to create a Trade Negotiations Committee.
Paragraph 38: Para 38 should be deleted for the time being. We can discuss it once the scope of the agenda has been finalised. ...
... The draft Declaration in effect launches a new broad round although a number of regional meetings held recently, including South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held in New Delhi, have expressed concern on launching a new broad round.
On the Singapore issues, namely relationship between Trade and Investment, Trade and Competition Policy, Transparency in Government Procurement and Trade Facilitation, that is, paragraphs 18 to 23, my delegation wishes to reiterate its position that we have difficulty in agreeing to negotiations on these issues for binding commitments and our position is that educational and analytical work in the Working Groups/Committees should continue. We also believe that the words ‘focused analytical work’ referred to in paragraphs 19 and 21 should be clarified.
... We support the view that there is no need to have a Trade Negotiating Committee. Therefore, we support the view that paragraphs 36, 39 and 42 in the text be deleted. ...
STATEMENT BY ZIMBABWE ON BEHALF OF THE AFRICA GROUP:
... We also wish to see a balanced treatment of all the new issues. For instance, there is a need to present options for all the new issues and not just on Trade and Investment, and Interaction Between Trade and Competition Policy. ...
Regarding the section dealing with Organisation and Management of the Work Programme (paras 36-42), our view is that we defer consideration of this section until such time as we have agreed on the elements on the Work Programme. ...
(As reported in SUNS #4981, 5 October 2001, ‘Draft declaration work to be moved forward, ignoring objections’, article by C. Raghavan)
‘... Egypt complained that the level of ambition was ‘still high’. All proposals for negotiations (government procurement and trade facilitation) had been included irrespective of the level of support among the membership. Alternatives should have been proposed on issues where there were strong disagreements. In the discussions in Geneva, and at the Mexico City meeting, it was clear that there was no consensus to bring forward the new issues for negotiations. The present draft presented a broad but imbalanced programme. ... On the Singapore issues, Egypt wanted the current study programme to be listed and proposed as alternatives....’
HONDURAS AND DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:
(Unofficial translation of statement dated 2 October, from the original in Spanish)
With respect to trade and investment and trade and competition policy, we are of the view that the working groups have not yet concluded their studies and this must continue, but this must not lead to the launch of negotiations in the future.
Finally, we find it surprising that the text in the section relating to the Organisation and Management of the Work Programme provides for negotiations to be launched as a single undertaking without there being at the moment a consensus on the subject...
As regards the Singapore issues, our Ministers stated that these are complex and not yet ripe for negotiations. Therefore the current study process should continue until the full implications are known and well understood. We therefore do not accept para 18 on negotiations on investment and para 20 on negotiations on competition. We support the option indicated in paras 19 and 21 which state that the study process should continue. On the other Singapore issues, namely transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation, we believe that the study process should continue.
Our approach to the section on the future work programme (paras 36 to 42) is guided by what LDC Ministers agreed to in Zanzibar. The Ministers took the view that the scope of future multilateral trade negotiations will have to take into account the inability of LDCs to participate effectively in negotiations on a broad agenda and to implement new obligations given their limited capacity to do so.
The section contains all the elements of a comprehensive new round which encompass the new issues with a possibility of more being added later together with a single undertaking. It is also suggested that a Trade Negotiating Committee be formed for this purpose as was the case in the Uruguay Round.
The experience of the Uruguay Round cautions us of the dangers of taking once again the road of a broad-based new round. This is especially so when implementation issues of the last round have not yet been resolved and many members have indicated that they are not ready to engage in a broad agenda containing new issues.
Given the role of the WTO as a permanent negotiating forum, there is no need for establishing a Trade Negotiating Committee. We propose that the elements of the work programme to be agreed to in Doha will be carried out in the relevant bodies of the WTO and these be supervised by the General Council which will report back to the Fifth Ministerial Conference.
We share the view with many developing countries that the draft is disappointing as it did not take into account the interests of developing countries... On the Singapore issues, we cannot agree to negotiations either in investment, competition, government procurement or trade facilitation. Therefore we cannot accept para 18 or para 20 or para 22 or para 23.
We would like the draft to change to accommodate our view that negotiations should not start and instead the study process should continue in the respective working groups. This option should be made available for all areas on new issues.