Draft Declaration flayed

The following is a Third World Network statement commenting on the WTO Ministerial Draft Declaration of 14 November 2001. This draft Declaration was finally adopted without change by the Ministerial Conference.

Third World Network and Third World NGOs sharply condemn draft declaration (14 November) and call on developing-country governments to reject it.

Civil society organisations in developing countries strongly condemn the latest draft declaration (14 November). We call on our governments to reject it.

The draft declaration is even worse than the previous draft of 13 November. It is even more unfair and biased against developing countries. Adopting it will mean a surrender to the designs of the EU, US and other developed countries for their firms and products to take over the business of local firms in developing countries.

This draft has been drawn up in the most undemocratic manner with devious manipulative tactics that should absolutely have no place in an international organisation.

The worst aspects are the sections on the new issues (paragraphs 20 -27). The text now accepts not only negotiations but the case for multilateral frameworks, which means that there would be agreements in all four areas by 2005 (the targeted end of the proposed new round).

The Africa Group, the LDCs group, and the ACP countries had made it clear that they are unable to accept any commitment to negotiate the new issues (investment, competition, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation). Many other developing countries (such as India) have shared this view.

The dangers of agreements in these four areas have been stressed in many regional meetings of developing countries themselves (e.g. Zanzibar, Abuja, Brussels).

We call on African, Asian, Caribbean and Latin American governments to reject the sections on new issues when the text comes up for adoption. This is their right and their duty to defend the sovereignty of our countries and future of our peoples.

On market access for non-agricultural products (industrial tariffs), many developing countries (including the least developed countries and several African countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania and supported by India) have called for a study process to examine the effects of past and future tariff reductions on local industries, jobs and government revenue.

This proposal arises from concerns that local industries and firms have closed in most African and least developed countries as a result of previous tariff cuts. They asked that new negotiations should be held only after the completion of the study process which could set guidelines on the negotiations.

However, the request of such a large number of countries has again been ignored in the new draft, which calls for negotiations to start immediately. It merely states that studies would be carried out during the negotiations, which is vastly different from the proposal to have a study process prior to initiating negotiations. Negotiations are likely to lead to further de-industrialisation in our countries.

Another disaster

The final section on organisation of the work programme (paragraphs 45-52) is also a disaster. It contains many points that actually launch a comprehensive new round. These include a Trade Negotiations Committee (para 46), a single undertaking (para 47), and the conclusion of negotiations by 2005 (para 45). The retention of these in the new text goes against the objections by many developing countries and many hundreds of NGOs worldwide that do not want a new round launched.

If adopted, this draft will initiate a vast expansion of the mandate and work of the WTO in the wrong direction. It will lead eventually to seriously restricting the rights of developing countries to have the development options and policies they require. It would also cause severe economic and social problems. We therefore call on the governments not to adopt this draft. As a minimum, the following changes have to be made:

        On the Singapore issues (paras 20-27), the text should be rejected. New text proposed by developing countries should be the basis of new discussions. There should not be any commitment to negotiations on all the four issues. The relevant paragraphs have to be revised to reflect that the study process should continue with a special focus on the implications and effects (economic, social) of placing new obligations on developing countries.

        On industrial tariffs, the text should be revised. Instead of initiating negotiations immediately, a study process should be established to learn the lessons of past experience so as to guide any decisions on future negotiations, and take account of the real fears of future deindustrialisation in developing countries.

        The section on organisation of the work programme should be changed to remove the elements of a new round.

        It is the duty of governments from developing countries to stand up and reject the draft declaration. This move will be supported by people around the world.

        The process should then be transferred to Geneva under the responsibility of the General Council (and not under individuals such as the Director-General or the General Council chairman). In that renewed process the present text should not be taken as the basis, due to the bad record of its evolution both in Geneva and Doha as well as its highly biased and imbalanced contents.