WTO now takes its differences to Nairobi

Members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) seem to be sticking to their divergent views on proposals, less than a month before the the 10th ministerial conference to be held in Nairobi next month.

One proposal put forth by the G33 group, a coalition of developing countries pressing for flexibility for developing countries to undertake limited market opening in agriculture, seeks to enable developing countries to temporarily raise tariffs to curb import surges. The G33 believes this should be part of the package of issues to be agreed in Nairobi.

Indonesia’s proposal, on behalf of the G33 group, on the special safeguard mechanism introduced a few changes to the group’s previous proposals in terms of the products subject to tariff increases, the extent and duration of such increases and flexibilities for poor countries, to reflect concerns raised by members.

Another outcome relates to export competition. Australia submitted a paper highlighting how a legally binding decision in Nairobi on export competition could be commercially beneficial. The proposal on export competition was co-sponsored by Brazil, the European Union, Argentina, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, which stressed that a decision on the issue would benefit developing countries in particular.

While member countries have generally welcomed efforts to move forward on the negotiations on export competition, some developing countries feel a binding requirement to notify their export subsidies programmes could be cumbersome to comply with. Some countries have also raised concerns about aspects such as the proposed timeline to fully eliminate export subsidies, rules on state trading enterprises and the disciplines to ensure that food aid did not negatively affect regional and domestic food production.

Other important “pillars” of agriculture negotiations, such as domestic support and market access have not seen much “evolution in the substantive positions of members”, according to Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis, Chairperson of the agriculture negotiations.

As things stand, it seems that the Nairobi Conference is likely to throw up more differences than agreements, though in certain areas, such as export competition, there is the likelihood of agreement.


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