Dti: No substantial outcomes at WTO Ministerial Conference

Sunday, December 17, 2017

There have been no substantial outcomes at the recently concluded 11th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference, said the Department of Trade and Industry.

“There were no substantial outcomes at MC11 [Ministerial Conference] and no consensus could be reached on a ministerial declaration. The Ministerial Conference ended with a Chair’s summary of proceedings at MC11. There were agreements to secure a deal on elimination of fisheries subsidies by the next ministerial in December 2019,” said the department on Friday.

The other decision made at MC11 was on e-commerce, where it was agreed to continue with the work under the current e-commerce work programme and that member states will endeavour to reinvigorate the work.

Another key decision was the establishment of a Working Party for the accession negotiations of South Sudan.

The Ministerial Conference that ran from 10 to 13 December is the highest decision making body in the WTO and was attended by delegates of the 164 countries which are members of the WTO, as well as a number of observer countries.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, who attended MC 11 alongside his Deputy Bulelani Magwanishe and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, said there had been consistent calls in the run up to the meeting for a “moment of truth” to decide which issues are ripe to bring to the Ministerial Conference.

“That approach was not followed leading to many issues being put on the table at the Ministerial Conference where sufficient consensus was not reached with widely different views on the issues by Member States which made it impossible to reach consensus at the meeting,” said the department.

Inclusive multilaterism

During the last plenary session at the Ministerial Conference, Minister Davies expressed disappointment that no in depth discussion on “inclusive multilaterism” had taken place.

“We missed an opportunity for a political conversation on what is multilaterism, where does it go and how does it promote prosperity and inclusive growth for all of us,” said the Minister.

Minister Davies said the reason that there were no comprehensive outcomes is that there is a clash of paradigms. 

“What we have seen before us, and what should be addressed, in the informal discussions called for by the Chair of MC11, Suzanne Malcorra, is the absolute clash of paradigms here. We have one paradigm that asserts that the way we create a more prosperous world is that we all abide by the same set of rules on the same level and standard; and with very little or any differentiation between us.

“This view is asserting that what is wrong with the WTO is that in the name of special and differential treatment, there have been too many exceptions for the poorer countries amongst us.” 

Minister Davies said many developing countries do not agree with this notion.

“With respect, I have to say that many of us from the developing world frankly do not agree with that. The paradigm that we support is that as developing countries, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we have an opportunity to industrialise, diversify, move up the value chain and not remain stuck where we are as producers and exporters of primary commodities.”

“That is going to require that we have access to the very same tools that the developed world used in its journey to become developed. Therefore, we need a differentiated set of obligations and a differentiated set of rules that deals directly with the problems of development,” said the Minister.

Earlier in the conference, Deputy Minister Magwanishe said that “members should be embracing a model of inclusive multilateralism to make the WTO more relevant and responsive to the needs of developing and least developed countries”. 

The lack of substantive outcomes in MC11 means that the outstanding issues under the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) remain unresolved, especially on agriculture, where major market distortions are still prevalent.

The DDA is the latest trade negotiation round of the WTO, which commenced in November 2001. Its objective is to lower trade barriers around the world to facilitate increased global trade.

The conference was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. - SAnews.gov.za

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