stress on outcomes on public stockholding, SSM, LDC issues
Published in SUNS #8369 dated 5 December 2016
Geneva, 2 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- A number of developing countries on
Thursday stressed the need for outcomes at the next ministerial on
the issues of public stockholding for food security purposes as well
as on a Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) for developing countries.
The least developed countries (LDCs) in particular also wanted to
see the issues of special and differential treatment (SDT) and the
LDC issues addressed.
The positions of the developing countries came at an informal Heads
of Delegation (HOD) meeting on Thursday (1 December) at the WTO, where
Director-General Roberto Azevedo and the Chairs of the various Doha
Work Programme (DWP) negotiating bodies reported on their recent consultations
on the key issues.
A number of countries, at the informal meeting, also indicated that
they want to see outcomes on amongst others agriculture especially
on trade-distorting domestic support including on cotton, on fisheries
subsidies as well as on domestic regulation in services at the eleventh
ministerial conference to take place in Buenos Aires December next
At the beginning of the meeting, Bolivia, on behalf of the ALBA countries,
asked for a moment of silence for former Cuban President Fidel Castro
(who had passed away last Friday.)
Cuba also took the floor and thanked everyone for their support.
REPORTS OF D-G AND NEGOTIATING GROUP CHAIRS
D-G Azevedo reported on his recent consultations including meetings
with the negotiating group chairs last week as well as with the group
He mentioned the mini-ministerial meeting hosted by Norway in Oslo
in October, the APEC ministerial meeting in Lima, Peru, the meetings
of the OECD, the IMF and the World Bank as well as the Cotton-4 ministerial
meeting in Bamako, Mali that he had attended in October.
The C-4 had highlighted to him the importance of making progress on
the parts of the cotton dossier that had not been addressed in Nairobi
(MC10 in 2015).
They were pleased with what happened in Nairobi on market access and
export competition and now they want to see movement in implementing
the decisions taken in Bali (MC9 in 2013) and Nairobi. They also want
domestic support in cotton to be tackled.
In his remarks at the informal HOD (posted on the WTO website), Azevedo
said: "A number of common points have emerged from my recent
discussions and consultations. First, there seems to be a shared desire
among members to deliver concrete results at the 11th Ministerial
Second, members see the importance of sustained ministerial engagement
throughout the preparatory process for MC11.
Third, he said, outcomes are more likely to be achieved through incremental
progress rather than major leaps.
And fourth, everyone agrees on the importance of advancing the development
and LDC components of any of the issues that are being discussed.
"I think that these elements - and others - would provide useful
guidance for our work here," he said.
"We can look back on a very constructive year of discussion and
debate. As I have said before, I can't easily recall when we last
saw this kind of dynamism and engagement at the WTO. Longstanding
issues are being discussed in new ways. Other issues are also being
debated. We can be pleased with the progress made and positive about
the way forward. But, in order to make further progress, and with
MC11 in mind, we will clearly need to intensify our work in the New
The D-G said that as discussions evolve, he is hearing divergent views
in many areas.
"I am also hearing convergent views in many areas, but with different
approaches. Therefore, when we resume in 2017, I intend to start facilitating
exchanges among proponents as well as delegations that have shown
particular interest in specific issues. The idea would be to share
views and see how we might be able to move forward."
"I will do everything I can to help members and to facilitate
this work. It's important to stress, however, that any progress will
need to be driven by members. It is up to proponents to get traction
and convergence behind their priority issues. Deliverables for MC11
will be defined by how much traction and progress is achieved by proponents.
So I urge members to continue talking to each other. Remain pragmatic.
Remain open-minded. And be ready to intensify work in the New Year."
According to trade officials, in his report, the chair of the agriculture
negotiations pointed to 69 bilaterals that he had held since the last
meeting (in July) and more than 200 bilaterals since January 2016.
What he has been able to detect from these is that agriculture must
be part of any outcome at MC11.
It is very important that the ministerial expectations would be addressed
including the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration.
It is difficult to envisage an agriculture outcome without progress
across all the Doha issues specifically the non-agriculture issues.
He also said that there is a desire on the part of members to avoid
seeking out any polarising issues and having a polarising debate on
On the substance, the chair said that the key issue around which most
of the members were coalescing is the question of domestic support.
He pointed out that there is no consensus so far but the intensification
of the discussions is encouraging. He also highlighted the issue of
domestic support notifications.
On agriculture market access, he said that there has been some shift
in gears and some intensification. The issues that members are talking
about include tariff peaks, tariff escalation, and tariff simplification.
These things are important but whether or not there is progress on
this is not known.
On public stockholding for food security purposes, the chair said
that well-known positions have been repeated and there is nothing
new to report there. The same goes for the Special Safeguard Mechanism
Those who are proponents of the SSM say that they see this as something
that is very important to address import surges, to address food security
needs, and to offset trade-distorting subsidies elsewhere.
But many countries also say that they do not see any prospect for
an SSM without an agreement on agriculture market access, said the
The chair of the NAMA negotiations pointed to four categories of members
- those that are not open to engaging on tariff cuts; those who can
envisage getting engaged provided that certain other conditions are
met in other areas (largely pertaining to agriculture); those who
are willing to negotiate but are skeptical of a multilateral process
and would prefer plurilateral or sectorals; and those who believe
that tariff cuts are not feasible and that emphasis in the NAMA group
should focus on increasing bindings and looking at the question of
There were opposing views to all of these perspectives, said the chair,
adding that many other delegations did refer to special and differential
treatment and the principle of less than full reciprocity. Some others
referred to the Rev. 3 text (draft NAMA modalities text of 2008).
The chair said that there has been a slightly more encouraging picture
on the issue of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), with members focusing
on good regulatory practices and transparency particularly in areas
like sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures and technical barriers to
The Chair said that there is need for new ideas if there is to be
an outcome at MC11.
The chair of the services negotiations said that the focus has been
on three areas - domestic regulation, market access and e-commerce.
On domestic regulation, he noted the two proposals from India on trade
facilitation in services. Some delegations also spoke about technical
standards, transparency and the development of measures.
The chair was of the view that the talks on domestic regulation were
On market access, the chair said that there is a large and longstanding
discussion about the difference between what governments commit to
here and what their applied circumstances are with respect to various
regulations involving specific sectors.
The chair said that there is need for proposals on e-commerce. There
have been some proposals but this has to be driven by the members.
Without concrete proposals, both market access and e-commerce cannot
move forward, said the Chair.
The chair of the Rules Negotiating Group highlighted the issue of
fisheries subsidies which many members have discussed. Many proponents
want fisheries subsidies to be a stand-alone issue.
Some say that this should be done plurilaterally, but what the membership
says is that plurilaterals should complement, rather than compete
with, any multilateral approach.
According to the chair, some delegations would like to see movement
on the issue of trade remedies.
Some delegations stress the need for balance across all the rules
pillars, while some others say that the time is not ripe to talk about
anti-dumping and subsidies.
The chair of the Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session
said that there has been no movement in the committee.
The proponents are in the process of putting forward proposals, and
Members are fully aware that without these proposals, there cannot
be any prospect of agreement by MC11.
The chair of the Committee on Trade and Environment in Special Session
reported no change in positions.
The chair of the DSB in Special Session said that mutually agreed
solutions is the area on which members are focusing. The next focus
will be on third party rights.
The chair of the TRIPS Council in Special Session reported that there
is no appetite to engage on the GI register for wines and spirits.
VIEWS OF MEMBERS
According to trade officials, Norway recounted the mini-ministerial
meeting held in Oslo in October.
Chad, on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), said that
the countdown for the Buenos Aires ministerial meeting has started.
It would like to see substantial cuts in trade-distorting domestic
support, public stockholding for food security purposes, a multilateral
outcome on fisheries subsidies along the lines of the SDG Target 14.6,
and the elimination of subsides for illegal, undeclared and unregulated
It also wants to see the issue of special and differential treatment
and LDC issues addressed, as well as duty-free quota-free market access
for LDC products (DFQF) and implementation of the decision on the
services waiver for the LDCs.
It said that the LDCs note the dynamism on the issue of e-commerce.
It however pointed out that the LDCs lack basic infrastructure. The
ITU has said that there are 940 million people living in the LDCs,
but only 89 million of them use the internet - slightly more than
Lao PDR, on behalf of ASEAN, said that it would like to see domestic
support, agricultural market access, and domestic regulation in services
including a trade facilitation in services agreement as deliverables
It also took note of the discussions on e-commerce and micro, small
and medium-sized enterprises.
It is committed to discussing these issues, but it wants to make sure
that these emerge in a way that takes into account the development
Argentina (which is hosting MC11 in 2017) said that after the agreements
reached in Bali and Nairobi, it is very important that we continue
to deliver something important in Buenos Aires.
It wants to see the implementation of the decision on export competition
reached in Nairobi. It also wants to see a specific decision on domestic
support including on cotton, as well as an outcome on fisheries subsidies.
It would like to see progress on domestic regulation and market access
in services. E-commerce should be part and parcel of any outcome.
Egypt said that the multilateral system holds many advantages over
the plurilateral and regional accords. Bali and Nairobi have offered
proof that the WTO can deliver.
It said that it is the largest net food importing country, so agriculture
must be part of any outcome in Buenos Aires.
Public stockholding and the SSM are very important. It is disappointed
that there has not been more progress made on these issues.
Japan said that to remain relevant, the WTO must continue to deliver
outcomes that address current policy concerns.
Trade has been unfairly blamed for job loss. We must have the courage
to send the message that free and open trade is a good thing. But
we have to pay attention because the impact of trade on the environment
can be problematic, it said.
Fisheries subsidies must be appropriately addressed, it said. It also
said the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) must be fully ratified
and it is encouraging that the ratification is just around the corner.
It expressed interest in talking about trade facilitation in services.
E-commerce can facilitate the entrance of small entrepreneurs in the
But it is evident that there needs to be capacity building and institution
building in some countries to enable them to reap the benefits from
this, it said.
Chile called for ratification of the TFA. There is also need to implement
the decision on export competition, and to make progress in services.
New Zealand said that we are now entering an era of uncertainty, with
the risk of unravelling the existing order.
All members have benefited from the WTO. The importance of multilateralism
is something that everyone must take on board.
On the negotiations, it highlighted three elements - intensify the
engagement, adopt a pragmatic approach, and leadership.
Rwanda, on behalf of the ACP countries, said that trade-distorting
domestic support and fisheries subsidies are critically important.
In agriculture, it is looking at a way to limit product-specific domestic
support for certain products so that there will not be a concentration
of support for any one product, particularly ones that will be exported.
It is also important that the issue of fisheries subsidies be addressed
as well, it said.
According to trade officials, India said that we are at an important
phase of convergence. Although it is important to say that there has
not been any consensus anywhere in any of the issues, there is a tendency
on the part of some members to say that consensus is arising on e-commerce,
domestic regulation and domestic support.
But in order to get traction here, there must be much deeper involvement
of the membership, it said.
The Bali and Nairobi ministerial declarations must be implemented,
it stressed, adding that this must be the priority.
It gets the impression that there has been some ‘cherry-picking'.
Some members choose to focus on some areas while not on others.
In terms of the credibility of the WTO, will this credibility be enhanced
if the ministerial declarations are not implemented, it asked. Clearly
not, it answered.
India said that the development dimension must be addressed. It is
a vocal advocate for public stockholding for food security purposes
and the SSM.
This is extremely important for many developing countries, it said,
adding that some delegations seem to be avoiding engagement.
Korea said 2016 has been a tough year. While there is anti-trade sentiment
out there, this needs to be addressed in a way that is supportive
of the system.
For Korea, agriculture, services, fisheries subsidies and e-commerce
are very important.
There is need to recognise that a great deal of movement is not being
seen. There is opposition, and very often policy space and special
and differential treatment are raised as reasons not to move the agenda
The question of special and differential treatment is a vexing one
because no one can agree on exactly what this means, it said.
Uruguay said that agriculture is the core issue, but the issue of
fisheries subsidies is important as well.
Australia said that this has been a difficult year and the year ahead
will no doubt be difficult as well. The way to respond to the anti-trade
climate is not to stand still at the WTO but to deliver results as
was done in Bali and Nairobi.
It said there are areas where there is a chance for success including
things that might be plurilateral. Fisheries subsidies, e-commerce
and domestic regulation in services are among these.
The European Union said that we have now begun to move from reflection
to action, but it is clear that we are not moving along at a satisfactory
pace. There is not enough action as yet.
For the EU, the issues that are possible deliverables include trade-distorting
domestic support. The question of fisheries subsidies is something
that is important along the lines of SDG Target 14.6. It also highlighted
the issues of small and medium sized enterprises and e-commerce.
Indonesia, on behalf of the G33, said that it is extremely important
that the issues of public stockholding and SSM are addressed. There
are mandates for these issues. It is ready to engage in a solution-oriented
approach. But we need to get moving on this, it added.
On behalf of itself, Indonesia said that e-commerce is important.
It is prepared to look at things in this regard, but we should not
deviate from the Nairobi mandate with respect to this issue.
According to trade officials, the United States said in terms of the
current environment, it has been encouraged by the pragmatic approach
that many delegations have taken.
It noted that when USTR Michael Froman was in Geneva in October, he
said that we need to have pragmatic multilateralism.
We should have multiple sources of inspiration including plurilateral
approaches. There should be as well regional approaches that can be
buttressing the global trading system.
Referring to the negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement
(EGA), it said that this will be a chance for the WTO to deliver another
We should not miss this opportunity. These kinds of opportunities
do not come along that often. This can help us to address both economic
and environmental objectives. It will benefit all WTO members because
it is MFN in nature.
It is encouraged by the energy in the discussion on fisheries subsidies.
The development dimensions of this are clear.
The US and its partners are pursuing a plurilateral on this issue
but they are prepared to engage with proponents multilaterally as
The US said that e-commerce is something that is of great importance
to all members. It is important though that we set ourselves a pace
that is realistic rather than forcing a pace that may result in an
outcome that is less than satisfactory.
It underlined that President Obama and his trade team are still deeply
engaged and will continue to be engaged up until 20 January (when
president-elect Donald Trump takes office).
China said that agriculture is extremely important and is a priority.
Out of the 1.3 billion people in China, 700 million are small, poor
farmers who have 0.1 hectares of arable land each and they shoulder
the responsibility of food security for the entire country.
For China, public stockholding and SSM are vital and these should
be deliverables for MC11.
It expressed unhappiness over the level of progress to date on these
issues. What you need in agriculture is to level the playing field,
as was done with export competition.
Now we must deal with aggregate measure of support (AMS), which it
said continues to be a problem and must be addressed. It would never
agree to any shift off the 8.5% de minimis level that it has, unless
the AMS was completely removed.
On market access in agriculture, it said there must be a move towards
addressing tariff simplification, tariff peaks and tariff escalation.
On NAMA, developed countries need to address their tariff peaks and
tariff escalation. The development dimension must be at the heart
of any discussion on services, it said.
On fisheries subsidies, China said that there is need to have a multilateral
agreement that is acceptable to all members and which takes into account
the development dimension and special and differential treatment.
If there is to be an agreement on fisheries subsidies, there must
also be an agreement on anti-dumping and countervailing duties. Trade
remedies should be a deliverable by MC11.
On e-commerce, it said it is important that the digital divide be
tackled through trade related capacity building and that there should
be no agreement to move ahead on any market access in e-commerce,
and the red lines on this must be respected. There can be no mandate
change without consensus, it said.
Pakistan highlighted importance of agriculture and e-commerce. E-commerce
and development are inextricably linked, it said.
South Africa said that the differences between governments remain.
The divergent positions reflect divergent views. The Oslo meeting
showed this to be the case. There are wide divergences of opinion
It noted the support on fisheries subsidies but said that this must
take into account the linkages to other areas including trade remedies
as well as special and differential treatment that is needed for developing
Pointing out that it had just attended an African Union meeting, South
Africa said that the issues raised there include trade-distorting
domestic support, cotton, public stockholding, SSM, fisheries subsidies,
special and differential treatment and the LDC issues.
The Dominican Republic said that it wants to see an outcome on agriculture
especially on domestic support at MC11. Nairobi delivered on export
competition and we have to move forward now to address other trade-distortions.
Russia said that MC11 should be results-oriented. It would like to
see trade-distorting domestic support, domestic regulation in services,
anti-dumping and subsidies dealt with.
It also wanted greater transparency in regional trade agreements and
something on e-commerce. The Nairobi decision on export competition
must also be implemented, it said.
According to trade officials, the informal HOD meeting is scheduled
to resume on Monday (5 December) to continue hearing the statements
of several other delegations who are yet to speak. +