Setback at WTO as demand to continue talks on Doha set aside

Panel sets aside demand to reaffirm commitment to continue Doha talks in declaration to be adopted at Nairobi meet

Industrialized countries insisted that if developing countries like India want a reaffirmation of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations, they must accept ‘graduation’ and forego special and differential and less-than-full-reciprocity flexibilities, according to people familiar with the development

India, along with an overwhelming majority of developing and poorest countries, received the biggest shock yet after a panel of facilitators at the World Trade Organization (WTO) set aside their demand for reaffirming the commitment to continue negotiations on all outstanding issues of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) in the declaration to be adopted at the coming Nairobi ministerial meeting.

On Friday, the panel of facilitators said its report “contains neither draft language on nor place holders for the most contentious issues identified by members, namely the reaffirmation of the DDA and instructions on the way forward, and no new issues”.

Following the facilitators’ report, major industrialized countries—the US, EU, Japan, Australia and Canada, among others—insisted at a closed-door meeting on Saturday that if developing countries like China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia want reaffirmation of DDA negotiations, then they must accept “graduation” and forego special and differential and less-than-full-reciprocity flexibilities, according to people familiar with the development.

Effectively, the major industrialized countries turned the facilitators’ report into a trade-off between the continuation of DDA negotiations on the one side, and radical changes in the WTO’s architecture to bring graduation so to ensure that India, China, South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia undertake the same level of commitments as the developed countries for completing the Doha negotiations, according to people familiar with the development.

The countries which took part in the meeting included the US, China, India, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Switzerland, South Africa, Mexico, Colombia and Kenya, apart from the EU.

Ahead of the facilitators’ report, over 100 developing and least-developed countries demanded the “reaffirmation” of DDA negotiations. India, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Ecuador and Venezuela, along with the Africa Group, the Arab Group, the small and vulnerable economies, the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) group, the recently-acceded members, and the least-developed countries, have all demanded that the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD) must direct members to complete the DDA negotiations based on the existing mandates.

“We take note of the progress that has been made towards carrying out the Doha Work Programme, including the decisions we have taken during this (Nairobi) Ministerial Conference. These decisions are important stepping stones towards the completion of the Doha Round. We reaffirm the declarations and decisions we adopted at Doha, and all the subsequent declarations and decisions, notably the decision adopted by the general council on 1 August 2004; the Hong Kong Declaration of 2005 and the Bali Ministerial Declaration of 2013,” India, China, Ecuador, Indonesia, South Africa and Venezuela said in their proposal.

In his address to African leaders on 19 October in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “the Doha Development Agenda of 2001 is not closed without achieving these fundamental principles (at the Nairobi ministerial meeting).”

But, disregarding the demands raised by the large majority of developing and poorest countries, the three facilitators—Gabriel Duque (Colombia), Stephen Karau (Kenya), and Herald Neple (Norway)— merely included the language as suggested by a handful of powerful countries such as the US EU, Japan, and other members, according to trade envoys familiar with the report.

The five-page draft report, reviewed by Mint, has portrayed the DDA negotiations in a negative manner to bolster the case made by the US and the EU.

For example, the facilitators said the members made “some” progress in the DDA negotiations despite concluding the $1 trillion trade facilitation agreement, which is part of the DDA, said an African trade envoy, who asked not to be quoted.

In the crucial Part III of the report, which deals with the post-Nairobi work programme, the facilitators turned a blind eye to the demand from the overwhelming majority of countries that “explicitly” called for reaffirmation of continuation of DDA negotiations based on the existing Doha mandates.

Echoing the oral statements issued by the US, the EU and Japan, the facilitators merely said: “We regret that it has not been possible to reach agreement on all areas of the (DDA) negotiations, including agriculture, NAMA (manufacturing), services, rules, including fisheries subsidies, and TRIPS (trade related intellectual property). In particular, we note the importance of agriculture to many WTO members, including LDCs (least developed countries). We will, therefore, address all aspects of agriculture reform as a matter of priority.”

“By drafting a declaration which basically points towards closing the Doha negotiations, as demanded by the handful of countries, the facilitators turned their back to all the issues raised by a majority of countries in their written submissions,” a second trade envoy said.

Before the facilitators’ report is discussed by members in a bottom-up negotiating framework on Wednesday, industrialized countries are trying to adopt a top-down approach to finalize the Nairobi ministerial declaration, the second envoy said.


Last modified onThursday, 03 December 2015 20:59


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