South Call for Credible Results, Including on PSH & SSM at MC11

The article below was published in South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) #8511 dated 27 July 2017.

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South call for credible results, including on PSH & SSM at MC11
Published in SUNS #8511 dated 27 July 2017

Geneva, 26 Jul (D. Ravi Kanth) -- The developing countries, individually and along with their coalitions on Tuesday called for credible results based on the Doha work program, including the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security, at the World Trade Organization's eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in December, trade envoys told SUNS.

The African Group as well as other developing countries, including India, rejected new issues being brought up on the agenda, maintaining that there is no mandate for them.

In a face-off with the proponents of the new issues led by the European Union, the developing countries insisted firmly for advancing outcomes based on the Doha Development Agenda, trade envoys said.

At the informal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting, Rwanda, on behalf of the African Group, emphasized "the importance of upholding the principles of full participation, inclusiveness, and transparency in the run up to, as well as during the eleventh Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires."

The African Group said it will oppose "any process or green room meetings both in Geneva and in Buenos Aires that will be exclusively reserved for certain Members only. We stress that such meetings must be representative of all WTO groupings."

The group maintained that members cannot decide issues six weeks before the Buenos Aires meeting.

It reiterated "our special attachment to the strong development mandate embodied in the Doha Development Agenda and we call on all Members of the Organization to respect the letter and spirit of Paragraph 31 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration that said there remains a strong commitment of all Members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues".

On issues concerning agriculture, the African Group said that "a high proportion of the populations in all African countries are crucially dependent on agriculture for livelihood and daily subsistence."

"Therefore, a correction of the systemic imbalances and asymmetries in the Agreement on Agriculture, as echoed by all African Ministers of Trade, remains our main priority in the WTO and it continues to be our determinant of the level of ambition in the negotiations as we move towards MC11," it argued.

It questioned the "recent approaches on Overall Trade Distorting Support (OTDS) based on the percentage of value of production (VOP)," saying they "cannot achieve the desired objectives but would rather result in maintaining and even extending current imbalances in the global rules on trade distorting domestic support."

It supported the joint proposal by China and India "for the elimination of AMS entitlements and capping product specific support to avoid production support concentration."

The African Group demanded the resolution of issues such "as cotton, a Permanent solution on Public Stock-holding for Food Security Purposes, a Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) as well as concerns raised by Net-Food Importing Developing Countries (NFIDCs)."

On Fisheries Subsidies, the African Group reiterated "our call for a multilateral outcome with provisions for elimination of subsidies to IUU fishing activities, as well as disciplines on subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity, while taking into account the need for the development of this sector in many developing countries."

As regards improvements on special and differential treatment, the African Group regretted that its proposals "were received with extremely stiff resistance by some delegations."

The African Group said it is guided by its ministers who have said explicitly that "Special and Differential Treatment MUST be an integral part of all WTO Agreements and future multilateral outcomes and be operationally effective, so as to enable developing countries, in particular LDCs, to effectively address their development needs."

Given the importance of S&D in economic development, we call on all Members of this Organization to demonstrate the same spirit of openness that is urged upon us, when they present other issues, which we do not consider a priority for our economies.

On issues concerning trade in services, the African Group said that "any outcome on GATS Article VI. 4 disciplines shall not involve the implementation of new and/or onerous administrative requirements or requirements that intrude into the domestic policy-making processes".

The African Group emphasized that members must adhere to paragraph 34 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration that clearly says "while we concur that officials should prioritize work where results have not yet been achieved, some wish to identify and discuss other issues for negotiation; others do not. Any decision to launch negotiations multilaterally on such issues would need to be agreed by all Members".

On behalf of the G33 group, Indonesia said "a permanent solution for the PSH and accessible and effective SSM are important tools needed by the developing members, SVEs and LDCs for sustaining investments in agriculture for food security, livelihood security and rural development."

"As time is currently very critical, it is important for Members to demonstrate their constructive engagements and flexibilities," Indonesia maintained.

The G33 demanded "that Chair and Members must frame our work after the summer break that would ensure no single technical matter on SSM and PSH is left unturned and unaddressed before our ministers gather in Buenos Aires, and that all issues of Members critical to their decision making should not be left out of the agenda of MC11 so as to ensure success."

India issued the strongest statement yet, saying that "implementation of the Declarations and Decisions adopted at the Doha and the Ministerial Conferences held thereafter, is the only way forward to conclude the DDA."

"The development dimension is at the core of the DDA and issues of interest to developing countries and LDCs must be addressed on priority," India maintained.

India emphasized the importance of ministerial declarations as an article of faith that must be fulfilled with utmost seriousness, maintaining that "if members failed to do so, the credibility of the WTO" will be damaged.

As regards the revised proposals submitted by the G33 on the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security, India said "with more than eight hundred million hungry and undernourished people in the world, the problem of ensuring food security remains an enduring challenge, especially for developing countries."

India reminded the chair that it cannot imagine "a substantive outcome at the eleventh ministerial conference without a permanent solution on food security."

It expressed disappointment at the "linkage being drawn between PSH and the domestic support discussions."

The mandate says clearly that "the two issues have to be kept on separate tracks."

India said the special safeguard mechanism for developing countries is essential, suggesting that some countries are maintaining silence.

On domestic support, India spoke about the existing inequities that allow the industrialized countries to subsidize agriculture including the possibility of concentrating subsidies on a few products.

China and India want the elimination of aggregate measurement of support to take forward the Doha Work Program for addressing the historical inequities.

India also emphasized the importance of an outcome on cotton while indicating that it will table a revised proposal on trade facilitation in services.

Commenting on the new issues, India said paragraph 34 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration requires members to pursue issues that have not been fully addressed in the Doha work program. It opposed the disciplines on e-commerce.

India called for outcomes on unresolved developmental issues in the Doha work program.

On behalf of the informal group of developing countries, Dominican Republic's trade envoy Ambassador Luis Manuel Piantini said "trade is a tool for development" and members must ensure that "development remains at the centre of the WTO's work."

He expressed concern at the sharp drop in technical assistance while underscoring the need for arriving at decisions based on consensus.

China emphasized the importance of eliminating the aggregate measurement of support as well as enforceable caps on product-specific subsidies. China said members must respect the red lines some countries have on e-commerce, according to people present at the meeting.

The United States which did not speak at the informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting spoke at the Heads of Delegations meeting.

The US suggested that the eleventh ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization in Buenos Aires in December must provide a path for addressing the "systemic" issues as well as the future of the trade body at the subsequent 12th ministerial conference in 2019.

Instead of addressing consequential outcomes at the Buenos Aires meeting, members must settle for incremental results because of the continued divergent positions on deliverables that are being targeted for the eleventh ministerial meeting which will start in less than five months, the US said at an informal Heads of Delegations meeting, according to people familiar with the statement.

The US wants systemic issues concerning notifications, compliance with the rulings, as well as the linkage between trade and development that became a sine qua non of the Doha trade negotiations, said a participant, who asked not to be quoted.

During the informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting that lasted more than six hours, differences over new issues - rules for electronic commerce, the disciplines for small and medium enterprises, and investment facilitation among others - came into the open between major industrialized countries as well as some developing countries on the one side, and a large majority of developing and poorest countries on the other.

The European Union, Korea, Singapore, and several other countries called for outcomes on electronic commerce, disciplines for micro, small, and medium enterprises, and investment facilitation.

In short, the informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting and the Heads of Delegations meeting brought to the fore the continued differences among members. But developing countries are joining hands to avert controversial outcomes at the Buenos Aires meeting. +