Title: Setting Global Trade Rules on Electronic Commerce (E-Commerce) – Opportunities, Challenges, Perspectives and the impact on developing countries, specific to Small, vulnerable economies (SVEs), small island developing States (SIDs), and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Notification and Transparency Issues in the WTO and the US’ November 2018 Communication
Various WTO Members submitted a Communication to the WTO in November 2018 which, if accepted, would affect the implementation of Members’ transparency and notification obligations at the WTO. It would strengthen the already burdensome notification obligations and introduce new punitive administrative measures should obligations not be complied with. This paper provides information about WTO Members’ current notification obligations and their level of compliance; looks at the history of discussions on notifications, particularly in the Working Group on Notification Obligations and Procedures which took place in 1995 – 1996; and provides an analysis of the Communication. The analysis focuses on the extent to which the elements are consistent with or go beyond the current WTO disciplines. It concludes that non-compliance with notification obligations is real. However, rather than expanding obligations and introducing punitive measures, constructive and effective solutions should be based on nuancing of obligations in the context of a Special and Differential Treatment approach and through the use of incentives. It also acknowledges that countries with a chronic lack of capacities will continue to struggle with the WTO’s complex notification obligations and requirements until they attain higher levels of development and, thus, improved institutional capacities.
Why the US Proposals on Development will Affect all Developing Countries and Undermine WTO
US submitted two highly problematic proposals to the WTO in January and February 2019, undermining the place of Special and Differential Treatment (S&D) for developing countries at the WTO. In the first paper (WT/GC/757), US criticises the practice of self-declared development status by developing countries arguing that the North-South construct no longer makes sense due to “great development strides”. The second paper (WT/GC/764) – a proposed Decision for the General Council – provides a way to operationalise what was in the first paper. It gave criteria that would exclude 34 Members or 53.6 percent of global population from S&D treatment in “current and future WTO negotiations”. This fundamentally changes S&D from an unconditional right for all developing countries to a concession that may or may not be provided. Even for those developing countries that are not part of the 34 excluded Members, the US notes that in sector-specific negotiations, other Members could also be “ineligible for special and differential treatment.” This paper critiques the US approach on Special and Differential Treatment and concludes that these papers by the US cannot be the basis for any further discussions. All developing countries must be able to decide the pace of their adjustment to trade rules.
WHY THE US PROPOSAL (WT/GC/W/764) WILL AFFECT ALL DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND UNDERMINE THE MULTILATERAL SYSTEM
US’ recent submissions to the WTO attempt to fundamentally change the concept of Special and Differential Treatment (S&D) at the WTO from an unconditional right for all developing countries to conditioned concessions available to only a few. This will affect developing countries and undermine the multilateral trading system!
Key Issues for BAPA+40: South-South Cooperation and the BAPA+40 Subthemes
Developing countries today face multiple interlinked macroeconomic, financial, climate, and development challenges. South-South cooperation is an important element for developing countries to meet these challenges individually and collectively, and in multilateral North-South dialogue and global governance. The overall theme of the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation (40 years after the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promotion and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries/BAPA+40) is the “Role of South-South cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: challenges and opportunities”, with sub-themes. This research paper will present some concepts relating to South-South cooperation that have been developed by the South and the United Nations system, and looks at some issues that would be relevant to discussions that may be undertaken with respect to Subthemes (i) “Comparative advantages and opportunities of South-South cooperation”; (ii) “Challenges and the strengthening of the institutional framework of South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation”; and (iv) “Scaling up the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in support of South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation”. It concludes by providing recommendations for the consideration of developing countries in response to the various subthemes, as inputs to support the active engagement by developing countries in the negotiations for the BAPA+40 outcome document.
Statement by His Excellency Thabo Mbeki on the occasion of the meeting of the Board of the South Centre
Below is the statement of His Excellency Thabo Mbeki, former President of the Republic of South Africa, and new Chair of the Board of the South Centre, upon conclusion of the 41st meeting of the Board of the South Centre, held on 11 October 2018 at the South Centre in Geneva.
US Claims under Special Section 301 against China Undermine the Credibility of the WTO
The US action to place China in the Special 301 ‘Priority Watch List’ is unjustified and in contravention to the WTO rules. The claims made against China are based on standards self-determined by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), not on international standards. This is an example of a systemic problem that requires a concerted response. WTO members should unite to firmly oppose the imposition of unilateral measures that undermine the multilateral trading system and the credibility of WTO as a ruled-based institution.
US’ Section 301 Actions: Why They are Illegitimate and Misguided
This research paper examines the US’ Section 301 unilateral actions against China, stemming from the US’ concerns over China’s ambitious industrial policies and its rapid technological advancements. It outlines the accusations of the US regarding China’s conditions for technology transfer and what the US sees as overly intrusive Chinese government involvement in investments. It looks in detail at why the US’ actions are in fact illegitimate and misguided. (more…)