Still no clarity on Doha re-calibration, simplification, says India

Original Publication Date: 
9 June, 2015

Third World Network
Published in SUNS #8034 dated 4 June 2015
Geneva, 3 Jun (Kanaga Raja) -- There is still no clarity on re-calibration, simplification and doabilities, India told an informal meeting at the level of Heads of Delegation (HOD) at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Monday (1 June).
Speaking following a report by Director-General Roberto Azevedo at the informal meeting which was held in Room W, India reportedly said that as it seems to have been the case over the last few weeks of discussions, there is no visible proponent of re-calibration and simplification.
How do members arrive at the elements of the so-called re-calibrated package in such a situation, it asked.
India called on the proponents of the re-calibration and simplification approaches to take the responsibility of tabling comprehensive, self-contained proposals and not expect the rest of the membership to react to broad concepts that have not been fully fleshed out.
The informal meeting was convened by the D-G to report on the current state of play in the negotiations on the post-Bali work programme to conclude the Doha Round.
In remarks that were posted on the WTO website as a news item, the D-G said: "We are still seeing good engagement - and this is positive. We have been having detailed conversations across a range of issues, and in some areas we are seeing progress. However, on the basis of the discussions I have had over recent weeks, I am becoming increasingly concerned that we are not making the progress that is needed in the key areas of agriculture, industrial products and services.
"Agreeing on a work programme was never going to be an easy task. But as of today we are still waiting for the necessary convergence on key issues in order to deliver the outcome we need by July and to help us build towards a successful ministerial meeting in Nairobi in December."
The post at the WTO website continued, "Commenting on the forward process, the Director-General said: I will ensure that meetings of the full membership are held even more frequently from now on to ensure that members are fully briefed on all aspects of the negotiations. This will be essential to ensure that the necessary political calls can be taken in due course."
According to trade officials, Azevedo had made a long statement at the informal meeting - some 40 pages long.
The DG is very concerned about the width of the gaps that separate countries and the very slow pace at which governments seem to be realising the situation in which we find ourselves, trade officials added.
According to trade officials, there has been no movement on the big issues. On the issue of domestic support, the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), and on the alternative approaches to market access, there has been no real movement.
On export competition, there is an understanding that this issue is much further along than either domestic support or agricultural market access, but there is no clear idea as to when this issue might be resolved.
On issues like monetising food aid, members seem to have gone backwards.
According to trade officials, the D-G mentioned that he has been called to participate in meetings of other groups organised by delegations.
Referring to the group of seven major players, trade officials said that the D-G was concerned about the fact that there was a great deal of "inaccurate reporting" on what specific delegations said.
Delegations are exploring different kinds of approaches without instructions from capitals. If there is erroneous reporting on what they have said - and obviously someone inside these meetings is leaking this - then people are going to be very reluctant to try and offer up any kind of creative ways forward, trade officials reported the DG as having said.
If people are interested in finding solutions, they need to be respectful of those who are trying to find alternative approaches, they added.
Reportedly some 25 delegations spoke following the report by the D-G, but trade officials would not provide any information on what delegations said.
Pointing to the active engagement in the past few weeks and that new ideas and proposals have been presented by members, India was reported by others as saying that it finds however that the major developed members are still talking in generalities, both in the areas where they are defensive and in areas where they have traditionally been demandeurs, although, at times, they seem to say that they are not demandeurs for anything in this Round.
India expressed concern that there was still no clarity on re-calibration, simplification and doabilities.
It had heard members say that it was the responsibility of proponents to get consensus, adding that if that were to be so, then the proponents of re-calibration and simplification should take the responsibility of tabling comprehensive, self-contained proposals and not expect the rest of the membership to react to broad concepts that have not been fully fleshed out.
It noted that no convergence has so far been visible on the ideas that have been floated as alternatives to the Rev. 3 draft modalities text in non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and Rev. 4 draft modalities text in Agriculture.
India was concerned that efforts are being made to advance discussions in the market access pillars of agriculture and NAMA without clarity on the other pillars.
Since it is agreed that agriculture should drive the level of ambition in the Doha Round, the front-loading of the discussion on all its elements with more sincere engagement is needed.
On non-core areas such as Rules, India said that it can get into substantive discussion only after there is clarity on the ambition level in the core areas.
Discussions in these areas at this juncture could take place vertically pillar by pillar rather than attempting a horizontal discussion and prejudging elements that are "sure" to be part of an outcome which India said it does not support.
India also said that re-calibration with a lowering of ambition cannot happen if it is not symmetrical across all areas of the negotiation. Raising ambition by seeking a higher contribution from developing members with a simultaneous lowering of ambition for developed members is incongruous and unacceptable.
Noting that a Nairobi "make-it-or-break-it" narrative has already started, in calling for the conclusion of the Doha Round at this undefined so-called low level of ambition, India said that it did not accept this narrative and believes that the Round cannot be concluded without a credible outcome on the development dimension that meets the interests of all developing countries.
According to India, the core elements of the mandate and existing WTO legal framework as inviolable and non-negotiable.
Firstly, India referred to the treatment of all developing countries as a homogenous category without further stratification or differentiation in terms of the accepted level of contribution except for the LDCs.
Secondly, bound and not applied tariff levels are to form the basis of the market access negotiations. Thirdly, exploratory issues are to remain in that mode and not be converted into negotiations.
Fourthly, special and differential treatment and less than full reciprocity are to be part of all the pillars of the negotiations.
Lastly, it pointed to complete transparency and inclusiveness even if the maintenance of the tempo requires holding discussions in a variety of formats or geometries.
According to India, all efforts should focus on developing a work programme that is as close to the modalities as possible. A work programme with a menu of options or with insufficient detail would be unworkable as it would be impossible to judge the level of ambition or balance, it said.