ВТО усовершенствовалнепрозрачный процесспринятия решений, в котором мнения СШАвызывали озабоченность всех других членов.
Успешный министерскийсаммит многосторонней организации неизменноподнимает надежду и уверенность. Для такой межправительственной организации, как Всемирная торговая организации (ВТО), в составе которой 164 страны, совещание министров раз в два года является важным событием. Десятаяминистерская конференция прошедшая в Найроби, Кения, почти два месяцаназад, не является исключением. Она привела к основному соглашению оликвидации экспортных субсидий.
The WTO has perfected an opaque process of decision-making in which the views of the US trump the concerns of all other membersA successful ministerial summit of a multilateral organization invariably raises hope and confidence. For an inter-governmental organization like the World Trade Organization (WTO), with a membership of 164 countries, the biennial ministerial meeting is a crucial event. The 10th ministerial conference that concluded in Nairobi, Kenya, almost two months ago, is no exception. It brought about a substantive agreement on eliminating export subsidies.
The Nairobi package offered modest improvements for the least-developed countries in realizing market access opportunities for their cotton producers and short-term services providers. The package contained a work programme that goads members “to strengthen the negotiating function of the WTO”. “Nairobi, from my perspective, was a success,” WTO director general Roberto Azevêdo declared at a meeting of the heads of delegations last Wednesday.
But the Nairobi decisions are now being ridiculed by the African countries on several grounds. Members are angry over the process that was adopted in Nairobi as well as on the substantive results.
“Our ministers were relegated to coffee cup bearers instead of negotiating their trading rights,” said ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr, Uganda’s trade envoy to the WTO, in his response to Azevêdo’s assessment. “This organization is made up of 164 members and we all have a stake in this organization,” Aparr told Azevêdo at the meeting of the heads of delegations.
The Ugandan envoy is angry over the manner in which the Nairobi ministerial declaration (NMD) was constructed by five members—the US, the European Union, China, India and Brazil—along with the chair of the conference, Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, and Azevêdo. The rest of the membership was excluded from the final green room meeting that lasted for more than 24 hours. “Nairobi did not portray our being a member-driven organization,” Aparr said.
The NMD contains three parts covering the preamble, the decisions reached in Nairobi and the post-Nairobi work programme. The preamble in Part I reflects what was achieved by the WTO over the past 20 years. In paragraph 12 of Part I, it mentions that “at our fourth session (in 2001), we launched for the first time in the history of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the WTO, a Development Round; the Doha Work Program”. It also mentions what were the specific achievements of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations and mentions that “much less progress has been made in agriculture and other central components of the WTO’s negotiating agenda, namely NAMA (non-agricultural market access), services, rules and development”. However, it doesn’t say who is responsible for the “much less progress”.
Part II includes the decisions of the Nairobi package covering areas such as a work programme on small economies, non-violation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and situation complaints, work programme on electronic commerce, the extension of a waiver for the least-developed countries from complying of certain obligations with respect to pharmaceutical products, and the “progress” made in the DDA.
The DDA-related decisions cover a work programme to continue the negotiating work for finalizing the special safeguard mechanism for developing countries for curbing sudden surges in imports and the permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food security, a ministerial decision on export competition for farm products, cotton, and improvements in preferential rules of origin for the poorest countries to export their products to the major industrialized countries and preferential treatment for services providers from the least-developed countries.
And Part III provides a work programme on what needs to be pursued in the coming two years at the WTO. The last four paragraphs of Part III are replete with constructive ambiguities about the way forward, particularly how members address the unfinished DDA negotiations.
For example, paragraph 30 says: “We recognize that many members reaffirm the Doha Development Agenda, and the declarations and decisions adopted at Doha and at the ministerial conferences held since then, and reaffirm their full commitment to conclude the DDA on that basis. Other members do not reaffirm the Doha mandates, as they believe new approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes in multilateral negotiations. Members have different views on how to address the negotiations. We acknowledge the strong legal structure of this organization.”
Clearly, it doesn’t reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of members who pressed for continuing with the DDA negotiations. A handful of countries led by the US called for the termination of the DDA negotiations based on the existing architecture of special and differential treatment flexibilities for the developing countries and less-than-full reciprocity in the final commitments. At the Nairobi meeting, China waged a rearguard battle in the green room, but the views of the US and the EU prevailed.
Aparr was spot on when he said “that the vast majority of the membership did not participate in shaping its (Nairobi) outcome”.
A ministerial meeting lacking credibility is not a new charge. Time and time again, international agreements have been criticized because of the manner in which the final outcomes were decided by a handful of countries in an unnatural process. Invariably, the final decisions lack ownership and legitimacy as they are tilted in favour of the dominant members. That they tend to ignore the concerns of the overwhelming majority of members is an open secret. Over the years, the WTO has perfected this opaque process of decision-making in which the views of the US trump the concerns of all other members.
The developed countries “have maximized the benefits from WTO agreement for the past 20 years with multilateral agreement tilted to their favour”, said ambassador Nkopane Monyane, the coordinator for the African Group.
In short, there are serious issues of credibility of the WTO ministerial that was held for the first time on African soil. Azevêdo and Mohamed deserve kudos for navigating the Nairobi process. But the WTO director general admitted that there were shortcomings at Nairobi. Whatever good has happened at Nairobi is because of all the participants and whatever bad has happened is also because of them, Azevêdo suggested. A clever way of disowning the NMD.D. Ravi Kanth
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