TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Sept19/02)
12 September 2019
Third World Network

WTO Members remain divided over new chair for fisheries talks

Published in SUNS #8971 dated 4 September 2019

Geneva, 3 Sep (D. Ravi Kanth) – Members of the World Trade Organization remained divided on Monday (2 September) over who should chair the crucial Doha rules negotiating body that is overseeing the fisheries subsidies negotiations.

The Asian Group of Developing Countries had nominated Ambassador Mrs Gothami Silva of Sri Lanka as their candidate to replace the previous chair Ambassador Roberto Zapata of Mexico, who was suddenly recalled back by his government in July.

However, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean (GRULAC) countries insisted on having Ambassador Alexandre Guido Lopes Parola of Brazil as the chair, trade envoys told the SUNS.

At an informal General Council (GC) meeting on Monday (2 September), the General Council chair Ambassador Sunanta Kangvalkulkij of Thailand informed members about her consultations with the coordinators of various groups for arriving at a consensual candidate.

Members of three regional groups – the GRULAC, the developed countries, and the African Group – had apparently supported GRULAC’s candidate Ambassador Parola of Brazil to chair the Doha Negotiating Group on Rules.

The United States, the European Union, and other major developed countries have privately campaigned for Ambassador Parola’s candidature, while opposing Ambassador Silva, said a trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.

At the informal GC meeting, the coordinator for the GRULAC group, Ambassador Diego Aulestia of Ecuador, demanded that Ambassador Parola be nominated to chair the rules group because of support from three regional groups.

But several countries in the Asian Group privately conveyed their concern to the GC chair about the GRULAC’s candidate due to Brazil’s current position on special and differential treatment (S&DT), said a person familiar with the GC chair’s consultations.

Recently, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro had publicly announced in the presence of US President Donald Trump that Brasilia would forego special and differential treatment (S&DT) flexibilities in the current and future trade negotiations at the WTO.

In the ongoing negotiations on fisheries subsidies, the US has already warned that Washington will not accept S&DT to be extended to all developing countries.

The US has demanded differentiation/graduation for denying S&DT to China, India, Indonesia, and South Africa among others as part of the “WTO reform” discussions.

The US stand is shared by several other developed countries, said a trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.

Against this backdrop, it would be difficult to accept a candidate from a country whose President had already declared that it will not avail of S&DT in the current and future trade negotiations, said a trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.

With an end-of-the-year deadline to conclude the fisheries subsidies negotiations, a prolonged delay in finalizing the chair could severely affect the negotiations, the trade envoy suggested.