TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec17/18)
12 December 2017
Third World Network

South Africa for "multilateralism with inclusive development"
Published in SUNS #8594 dated 12 December 2017

Buenos Aires, 11 Dec (D. Ravi Kanth) - South Africa's trade minister Rob Davies has issued a strong call for ensuring "multilateralism with inclusive development" so as to address the global "discontents" in the world.

"We need inclusive development" to address the growing "discontents" in the world. "We need multilateral trading system with the continuation of the Doha Development Agenda", Davies told SUNS in an interview on 9 December.

Davies expressed doubts whether there will be a ministerial declaration out of MC11. He said that there are fundamental differences "on the relevance of multilateralism" and other issues concerning the ministerial declaration.

However, a Chair's concluding statement cannot be ruled out, Davies said.

Following his meeting with the Indian trade minister Suresh Prabhu, Davies said South Africa and India shared common positions on several issues.

The South African minister emphasized the importance of concluding an agreement on the permanent solution for public stockholding programs so as to enable all poor countries facing hunger and other problems confronting poor farmers to be in a position to use the instrument.

"We can harvest the outcome on the permanent solution at Buenos Aires," he said.

He insisted there should be no linkage with any outcome on the domestic support, adding that South Africa does not support proposals that fail to address meaningful outcomes on domestic support.

Davies said the African Group and the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) group have circulated proposals on how to address the AMS and anti-concentration in product-specific subsidies.

On fish subsidies, he said "it is hard to see how [to] finalize the issue at Buenos Aires." Davies maintained that members have reached consensus on prohibiting subsidies going for vessels contributing to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

"It is difficult to go beyond IUU" at this juncture, he said.

South Africa remains opposed to any outcome on export restrictions for agricultural products as proposed by Singapore and several other countries.

"The proposal on export restrictions aims at ramping up administrative requirements and we don't want additional trade rules," he said.

Commenting on electronic commerce, he said there has to be a "balancing agreement" for foregoing revenue due to the existing moratorium on customs duties for electronic transmissions.

"In our view there is no compelling argument as to why we have to change the existing arrangement [based on the 1998 work program]", the South African minister argued, maintaining that his country with other African nations remain opposed to any change in the existing mandate.

"We are not supportive of investment facilitation", he said. Investment facilitation is not a matter of international trade rules, nor is the WTO a development body.

He said that there is no scope for disciplines on micro, small, and medium enterprises when there are so many unresolved issues of the Doha work program to be addressed.

As regards development and special and differential treatment, he said "these issues are mandated and we cannot see these problems being further weakened."

He saw no prospects for any changes in the domestic regulation for trade in services.