South Centre Quarterly Report, 1 January to 31 March 2019
This report summarizes the programmatic activities of the South Centre during the period 1st January to 31st March 2019. It is intended to provide information, organized by Program and themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the South Centre’s Work Program and publications made and meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or to provide analytical support for international negotiations taking place in various fora. It also informs about external conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated.
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!
The WTO’s Agriculture Domestic Supports Negotiations
The historical problems in agriculture continue today. Developed countries with the financial capacity continue to subsidise their farmers and export these agricultural products. This has also been enabled by the Uruguay Round through large AMS entitlements for mostly developed countries ($19 billion for US and now about $95 billion for EU27), as well as the Green Box (Annex 2 of the Agreement on Agriculture). (more…)
10 documents were distributed to WTO Members on 26 November 2013 at the last General Council meeting before the Bali Ministerial Conference (MC9). These documents are being transmitted to Bali. (more…)
WTO’s MC9: Analysis of the Food Security ‘Peace Clause’ Text
The Peace Clause is time-limited (4 years) and partial in coverage (no inclusion of the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures- ASCM). Countries can still be taken to dispute. It also has onerous and intrusive transparency and information requirements and conditions. (more…)
WTO Negotiations on Trade Facilitation: Development Perspectives
A possible new trade facilitation agreement has occupied the most time in the preparations for the WTO’s Ministerial Conference in Bali in December. A new experts report is being issued by the South Centre on “WTO’s Trade Facilitation Negotiations: Development Perspectives”. (more…)