The Politics of Trade in the Era of Hyperglobalisation: A Southern African Perspective
About the Book:
Matters of international trade are increasingly widely recognised as major shapers of global politics. News bulletins are giving more and more coverage to matters like the so-called “trade wars” between the United States and China. These are, indeed, increasingly defining relations between the two largest economies in the world and could well underpin a multi-dimensional rivalry that could be a central feature of international relations for many years to come. Brexit is dominating and indeed re-shaping politics in the United Kingdom. By definition a rejection of a regional integration arrangement, Brexit has also revealed under-currents profoundly shaped by the outcome of a broader trade-driven process called “globalisation”. Just as regional integration is weakening in Europe, African countries have taken decisions that could lead to the most profound and ambitious step forward in African regional integration – the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This study seeks to present an analysis of the political economy of trade negotiations over the past quarter century on two main fronts: the multi-lateral and those pertaining to regional integration on the African continent.
Author: Rob Davies is former South African Minister of Trade and Industry.
Developing Country Coalitions in Multilateral Negotiations: Addressing Key Issues and Priorities of the Global South Agenda
The recent increasing and unprecedented attacks on multilateralism and its institutions as well as the growing dangers of weakening international cooperation are regrettably leading to an enormous setback in the history of the international system. These developments could reverse decades of collective efforts to establish a more stable, equitable and inclusive path of development and social justice for all. An immediate impact is that international negotiations, which have increasingly become important for developing countries over the past decades, are now becoming even more complex. If the resurging path of unilateralism and protectionism adopted by some powerful countries is maintained, the risks of further deterioration grow even larger. The instabilities of the contemporary world pose serious risks to the achievement of the longstanding development goals of the Global South such as poverty eradication, the South’s ability to successfully address emerging challenges such as climate change, and to overall global stability, a pattern not seen since the Second World War. In this context, developing countries’ negotiating coalitions such as the Group of 77 (G77) + China and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), while respecting and adapting to the differences that might emerge within these large groups, need to remain together and ensure that their coalitions are preserved and strengthened. Working collectively will improve negotiating capacity and leverage and increase bargaining power of developing countries in the multilateral negotiations in order to get more balanced outcomes.
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.
South Centre Quarterly Report, 1 July to 30 September 2018
This report summarizes the programmatic activities of the South Centre during the period 1 July to 30 September 2018. 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 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.
The WTO’s Special and Differential Treatment Negotiations (Paragraph 44)
Paragraph 44 of the 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration mandates the ‘strengthening’ of Special and Differential Treatment (S&D) provisions in the WTO Agreement, and making them ‘more precise, effective and operational’. This Note tracks the evolution of these negotiations from the start of the Doha Round in 2001 until the Nairobi Ministerial in December 2015. (more…)
The WTO has a 1998 Work Programme on E-commerce. This Work Programme provides for the discussion of trade-related issues relating to electronic commerce to take place in the relevant WTO bodies: the Council for Trade in Services; the Council for Trade in Goods; the Council for TRIPS; and the Committee for Trade and Development. The General Council was envisaged to play a review or oversight role. (more…)
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…)