G-33 Pushes SSM, Stockholding Outcomes; Gaps Persist At Ag Committee

NAIROBI, Kenya -- On the eve of the 10th World Trade Organization ministerial here, the G-33 has doubled down on its push for outcomes on public stockholding and a special safeguard mechanism (SSM), which are non-starters for agricultural exporting countries, further illustrating the persistent and deep divisions among members on key issues.

The G-33, a group of developing countries with sensitivities to greater agricultural imports, in a ministerial communique adopted Monday (Dec. 14) reiterated that it sees outcomes on the SSM and public stockholding for food security purposes as critical elements of a Nairobi package.

"[T]he G-33 is making its utmost efforts through its active engagement and proposals on SSM, as part of its quest for an effective tool agreeable for all Members in the context of achieving meaningful, development-centered balanced and credible deliverables of MC10," the communique said.

"The G-33 also remains committed to implement the Bali Ministerial Decision of 7 December 2013 on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes by putting forward a proposal on this issue with a view to engage constructively to negotiate and make all concerted efforts to agree and adopt a permanent solution by December 2015 as mandated by the General Council Decision, dated 27 November 2014," it continued.

In November 2014, members agreed to "make all concerted efforts" to find a solution on public stockholding by the end of 2015. But agricultural exporters including the U.S., Brazil and Argentina have made clear that they are not willing to agree to an outcome on public stockholding without receiving reciprocal market access, an issue that is not even expected to be discussed this week.

The G-33 was among several groups of WTO members who held meetings here on Monday. At a meeting of the G-20 that followed, members were at a standstill over the public stockholding and SSM issues.

The G-20 is a group of developing countries that focus on agricultural issues. Those members that are a part of both groups -- including India and Indonesia -- reiterated their support for SSM and public stockholding, but were met with strong pushback from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Other groups meeting today include the Cairns Group; the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group; and the group of least-developed countries (LDCs). After those meetings, the WTO's agriculture negotiating group held an informal meeting and discussed SSM, public stockholding and export competition.

The meeting was called to discuss what progress members had made during their smaller group meetings, but it appeared that no members had moved from their previously stated positions.

India has threatened to block a deal on export subsidies if there is no solution on public stockholding, but the U.S. does not believe a deal on public stockholding is possible this week because of the lack of progress in that area. It has also signaled that the G-33 proposal on public stockholding is disingenuous because it reiterates the same position it took prior to the 2013 Bali ministerial, which members were unable to agree to then.

Then, India led the charge in pushing for what would essentially be a permanent “peace clause” shielding public stockholding programs for food security from challenge under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, even if they breach subsidy limits. It ultimately settled for a temporary peace clause that is to last until some kind of solution to this issue is found.

The G-33 ministerial communique also called for a "balanced" outcome on export competition that respects the principle of special and differential treatment for developing members.

"We reiterate the importance of maintaining special and differential treatment in the areas of export competition," the communique said. "Negotiations in this area should be conducted by taking into account the need for balanced, development-centered and credible outcomes in Nairobi."

This appears to be at odds with the U.S. demand that developing countries eventually be subject to all new disciplines reached under a deal on export competition.

Correction: A previous version of this story used an incorrect title when referring to the WTO's agriculture negotiating group.

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