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G33 Insist on Unambiguous Outcomes at MC11 on Food
The article below was published in South-North Development
Monitor (SUNS) #8452,
28 April 2017.
We thank SUNS for permission to re-distribute this article.
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Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
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G33 insist on unambiguous outcomes at MC11 on food
Published in SUNS #8452 dated 28 April 2017
Geneva, 27 Apr (D. Ravi Kanth) -- Developing countries with hundreds of
millions of resource poor and livelihood farmers face a do-or-die battle, ahead
of the World Trade Organization's eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires
later this year, to secure a permanent solution for public stockholding
programs for food security and a simple and effective special safeguard
mechanism, trade envoys told SUNS.
Perhaps, Buenos Aires is the only chance for the G-33 group of developing
countries and least-developed countries to secure unambiguous outcomes on the
permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security, the
special safeguard mechanism, and other developmental issues, said a trade envoy
who asked not to be quoted.
This is more so, at a time "when the WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo
and a group of developing countries led by Brazil and Argentina are making a
concerted effort to shift the focus of the eleventh ministerial meeting to
"e-commerce" and "investment facilitation" among others,
instead of securing the "developmental" outcomes as set out in the
Doha Work Program," the envoy said.
"The Buenos Aires meeting is being prepared as a venue for launching the
so-called 21st century issues, such as e-commerce and investment facilitation,
by the two countries - Brazil and Argentina - which had till now insisted that
agriculture and other unresolved developmental issues of the global trading
system of the 20th century must remain at the center," the envoy said.
The director-general - who has been all over the place with Alibaba Group's
chairman Jack Ma extolling gains from e-commerce - is queering the pitch for
both e-commerce and investment facilitation, as though it is a WTO
Secretariat-driven process, the envoy suggested.
In the face of such an unprecedented effort by the WTO Secretariat under the
leadership of Azevedo and neo-liberal governments in Brazil and Argentina, the
G-33 not only faces an uphill battle but, in all probability, could well be
asked to make a heavy payment even for securing less-than-credible outcomes on
the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security and
the special safeguard mechanism, the envoy maintained.
Against this backdrop, the G-33 Group's submission "Reaffirming
Development - MC 11" circulated on 25 April assumes importance.
On behalf of the Group of 33 (G-33), Indonesia renewed the "longstanding
calls for global trade reforms that address inequities and imbalances in the
Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) so that all WTO Members would be
governed by a multilateral trading system (MTS) under the WTO which is not only
open, transparent, and market-oriented but also, more importantly,
development-oriented, fair and provides a level playing field."
The G-33 pointed out that "developed Members have expansive flexibilities
in the AoA, which make their farmers and exporters artificially competitive.
These flexibilities include, amongst others, high AMS entitlements with no
product specific caps on AMS; very high levels of total per capita domestic
support; non-transparent and complex tariff-rate quota (TRQ) and non-ad valorem
tariff systems including tariff peaks and escalation; and highest entitlements
to the special safeguard provisions (SSG), among others."
It is well-established by several studies that the Uruguay Round was a
sweet-heart deal between the then two major subsidisers - the United States and
the European Union, which was poetically concluded at Blair House in Washington
Attempts to address the "inequities" arising from the Uruguay Round
were started by Brazil which created the G-20 group of developing countries in
On the eve of that meeting, the US had reversed course, from its long-standing
focus against EU agricultural policies, joined hands with the EU to accommodate
each other's policies and mount a joint assault on the agricultural markets of
developing countries. In response to this, Brazil had then reached out to India
and China to form the G-20, much to the chagrin of the EU which had denounced
the move at the WTO.
But the G-20 is now dead for all practical purposes and is hardly interested in
addressing the inequities at this juncture, in the face of opposition from the
US and the EU.
Further, agricultural tariffs in the developing countries "have not been
able to match these wide-ranging flexibilities causing periodic import surges
and almost permanent market distortions in agriculture trade to the
disadvantage of developing Members where agriculture is characterized by small
subsistence farming and market failure," the G-33 argued.
Despite the Marrakesh Treaty's built-in agenda of continuing the reform process
in agriculture, and which was exhaustively negotiated and clarified in the Doha
Work Program as well as the revised draft negotiating modalities of December
2008, attempts are now being made to kill those developmental commitments, once
and for all.
In the face of these developments, the developing countries can only achieve a
"development-oriented" outcome if they remain solidly united to
ensure that "the negotiations must continue towards and after the 11th
Ministerial Conference (MC11) at Buenos Aires, building on the various
Ministerial decisions/declarations and the development framework we have agreed
to date since 2001."
The G-33 maintained that it is ready to "engage constructively and
contribute to a credible and balanced outcome, which withstands the test of
development at MC11 at Buenos Aires and beyond".
It maintained that "as part of the balancing and S&DT instruments, the
G-33 has long been calling for meaningful Special Products (SP), an accessible
and effective Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and a permanent solution on
Public Stock Holding (PSH) for food security purposes."
Further, "these tools," the G-33 argued forcefully, "are needed
for sustaining investments in agriculture for food security, livelihood
security and rural development, as well as addressing the destabilizing and
crippling effects of import surges and downward price swings in the
increasingly volatile global agricultural markets largely due to huge subsidies
in productions and exports by the developed Members."
It said "there should be a permanent solution on public stockholding for
food security purposes and a Special Safeguard Mechanism for developing Members
as mandated. There is a clear mandate to arrive and adopt a permanent solution
on Public Stock Holding (PSH) for food security purposes by 2017."
"The Nairobi Ministerial Decision on SSM for developing Members has
reinforced and strengthened the mandate in the Hong Kong Ministerial
Declaration to establish both price and volume-based SSM," the G-33
Indonesia urged the members to "constructively and meaningfully engage on
the two most important issues of SSM and PSH with a view to deliver them in
MC11 so that developing Members are equipped with these tools to counterbalance
some of the inequities built into the WTO rules in favour of the developed
This can only happen if the developing countries remain united in thwarting the
"stonewalling" and "diversionary" tactics adopted by the US
and the EU, aided by the director-general, and Brazil, said several envoys who
participated in the Nairobi ministerial meeting.
The recent appointment of the chair for Doha agriculture negotiating body in
which the director-general played a major role has only revived the memories of
the manner in which the Nairobi outcomes were finalized, said several African
and Asian envoys who asked not to be quoted.
The newly appointed chair for the Doha agriculture negotiations, Ambassador
Stephen Karau from Kenya, said on 26 April, that he is capable of overseeing
the negotiations given his role in overseeing the discussions on finalizing the
Nairobi ministerial declaration in 2015.
Unless the G-33 wages a do-or-die battle to secure its two goals at Buenos
Aires, the writing on the wall is anything but encouraging, several trade
envoys said. +