TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec18/08)
13 December 2018
Third World Network

DDA issues must be addressed before considering WTO reform
Published in SUNS #8815 dated 12 December 2018

Geneva, 11 Dec (D. Ravi Kanth) - A large majority of developing and least-developed countries on Monday insisted that the outstanding Doha Development Agenda (DDA) issues must be addressed before considering any new reforms at the World Trade Organization, trade envoys told SUNS.

At an informal Doha Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting, South Africa on behalf of the African Group, India, Malawi on behalf of the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) Group, Uganda, and several South American countries reminded the proponents of WTO reforms to address first the issues set out in the Doha work program.

South Africa said, "Our [the African] Group will continue to pursue outcomes on the core developmental issues in line with the Doha mandate, notably in respect to agricultural domestic support, cotton, public stockholding and fisheries subsidies."

It asked the chair for Doha agriculture negotiations Ambassador John Deep Ford of Guyana to respect the "previous ministerial decisions as well as to ensure that the pace and structure of the work next year takes into account the challenges faced by smaller delegations".

The African Group, according to South Africa, will "continue to seek an outcome on our joint G90 S&DT proposals."

South Africa said that its proposals for improvements in special and differential treatment (S&DT) will receive favourable treatment.

The African Group expressed "frustration" over continued opposition "to advancing on issues of longstanding interest to us."

South Africa warned that "as we consider the way forward, the issues we raise are critical components of our work, and how they are treated will have a bearing on other matters under consideration."

It urged "all WTO Members to implement all the Decisions in favour of LDCs in order to help them integrate more fully and sustainably into the multilateral trading system."

South Africa asked the developed countries to "desist from making requests on African acceding countries that are incompatible with their level of development and capacity, and that these countries receive technical support before, during and after their accession."

India said several issues of the "Doha mandate" must be addressed before approaching new issues. "Mandated issues in agriculture like Public Stockholding for Food Security (PSH) for all developing countries and LDCs [least-developed countries], fisheries and services need to be taken forward with a sense of focus."

India inveighed against attempts by industrialized countries and their allies to undermine multilateral issues such as the proposal on the negative impact of the electronic commerce moratorium on Members' policy space to protect domestic industry and the proposal to improve the disciplines of the domestic regulation for facilitating movement of short-term services providers in Mode 4 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

On behalf of the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) group, Malawi reiterated that the "Doha Development Agenda issues continue to remain a priority for the ACP group despite some signs of the issues being neglected and sometimes even forgotten in the organisation."

The ACP group expressed sharp concern over the lack of resolution to its proposals to improve the S&DT flexibilities.

"Being the main demanders and beneficiaries, we have proposed and recommended a way forward in the process which will prioritize LDCs, and SVEs' interests in the process, then discuss flexibilities as needed for other developing countries."

"In the near future, we expect to further engage with members moving forward and therefore, call upon all members to remain open in this engagement process if we are to take any meaningful steps in addressing the real imbalances in global trade which more particularly affect the LDCs and SVEs," Malawi said.

"We have more than a decade of work resulting in principles emerging in the differentiated flexibilities designed in the 2008 Chair's texts for agriculture and NAMA," the ACP group maintained.

The ACP group demanded that members adhere to the old negotiating framework on services as was set out in the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.

"On domestic regulation, the Group welcomes the renewed multilateral discussions within the context of the Working Party on Domestic Regulation, " it argued, emphasizing, "we reiterate that any discussions on domestic regulation must prioritize issues of interest to developing countries and LDCs and fully recognize our countries' right to regulate."

The ACP group maintained that, "in agriculture, we recognize the active engagement pursued in the CoA-SS through presentation of analytical papers and presentations under the different pillars."

"In general, the ACP group maintains that there is need for members to take steps to eliminate trade-distorting domestic supports that maintain gross imbalances including AMS entitlements, cotton, and take decisions on food security and other areas of most importance to weaker developing countries and LDCs which deserve priority attention," the ACP group argued.

In their interventions, the developing countries did not comment on the plurilateral Joint Statement Initiatives in electronic commerce, domestic regulation for services, investment facilitation, disciplines for micro, small and medium enterprises, and trade and gender.

In conclusion, the tension between the unfinished Doha-mandated issues and the new plurilateral initiatives was evident at the informal TNC meeting.