TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec17/26)
14 December 2017
Third World Network
South insists post-MC11 work based on DDA, but facilitators omit DDA
Published in SUNS #8596 dated 14 December 2017

Buenos Aires, 13 Dec (D. Ravi Kanth) - A large majority of developing and poorest countries on Tuesday insisted that the post-Buenos Aires work program must be based on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) but the facilitators in their reports ensured there is no reference to the Doha work program, trade ministers told SUNS.

The chairperson for the ministerial conference, Ms Susana Malcorra, is holding a heads of delegations (HoD) meeting at 9 am to discuss the ministerial declaration.

Given the opposition of the United States, there will be only a chair's concluding statement, suggested a trade minister who asked not to be quoted.

The United States pulled the plug on the mandated permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security at MC11, after a senior US trade official retracted on an earlier stand to allow public procurement up to 12% of the domestic production quantity of the crop in question after 7 December 2013, trade ministers told SUNS.

The US was opposed to new programs to be availed of by other developing countries that currently do not have public stockholding programs for food security.

At a green room meeting of six countries (the US, the European Union, China, India, Brazil, and Australia), convened by the facilitator for agriculture negotiations Ms Amina Mohamed, Kenya's cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, a senior US trade official simply said the US will not accept any outcome on the permanent solution, including the upper limit of 12% for public procurement, said a person familiar with the meeting.

Despite sustained efforts by the facilitator to persuade the US to agree to its earlier positions, the US stuck to its stand that it is not willing to accept any outcome on the mandated permanent solution at Buenos Aires.

"The US basically eroded the credibility of the WTO," said a person who was following the negotiations.

Ahead of the meeting, the facilitator issued a "draft ministerial decision" that included "notification and transparency" provisions as well as "anti-circumvention/safeguard" provisions.

The transparency provisions include "general information about each public stockholding programme that it maintains for food security purposes" or "prior information about risk of exceeding either or both of its Aggregate Measurement of Support limit (the member's bound total AMS or the de minimis level)", and annual data about each program.

On the anti-circumvention/safeguard front, the draft suggested two conditions that stocks procured for PSH (public stockholding programs) "do not distort trade or adversely affect the food security of other members" and the permanent solution will not be used "in a manner that results in an increase of the support subject to the Member's Bound Total AMS or de minimis".

It also requires PSH beneficiaries to ensure that "stocks procured under such programmes shall be used exclusively for food security purposes and not be exported directly or indirectly" except for the World Food Programme.

It remains to be seen how the ministerial meeting will end without an outcome on a mandated issue which is the core of the Buenos Aires ministerial meeting, said a trade minister from Africa who asked not to be quoted.

The facilitator for agricultural outcomes Ms Amina Mohamed also issued a draft ministerial decision on domestic support, including cotton, that seeks to continue negotiations after the Buenos Aires ministerial meeting with the aim of imposing additional proportionate restraints on trade-distorting domestic support by exploring different approaches, and based on current and future proposals from the members.

The approaches include the introduction of an overall limit on trade-distorting domestic support and reduction of AMS (aggregate measurement of support) entitlements, with special and differential treatment entitlements as an integral part of the negotiations.

The draft suggested that "members shall strive to use less trade-distorting forms of domestic support," and "shall consider the effects of trade-distorting domestic support on other members."

It says members shall engage in consultations based upon request with any other member having "a substantial interest with respect to any matter related to the application of trade distorting domestic support measures."

It has emphasized "the critical importance of transparency and particularly the fulfilment of notification requirements to ensure the proper implementation of WTO agricultural disciplines and to inform the negotiations on agriculture."

The draft decision suggested that members "shall provide complete and timely notifications pursuant to the Agreement on Agriculture, and further enhance the effectiveness of existing notification requirements."

Ms Mohamed also issued a draft decision on export restrictions under which members are required not to impose export prohibitions or restrictions on food stuffs purchased for non-commercial purposes.

But there are grave doubts whether the draft decision on domestic support will be adopted when other elements of the package, particularly the permanent solution on public stockholding programs is rejected by the United States.

An Indian official suggested the agriculture package is unlikely to be adopted at the meeting.

In sum, while the Buenos Aires meeting has averted a Cancun-type of collapse as in 2003, it also turned out to be an unmitigated fiasco because of the role played by one country - the United States - both in the two South American venues.