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Africa: Trade Talks Skip Priority Issues
Apr 23, 2006 (060423)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
The European Union and the United States blamed each other for the
failure to progress in world trade talks, as a "mini-ministerial"
scheduled to complete the next stage of negotiations before the end
of April was again postponed earlier this month. But African
countries say there are more fundamental flaws. Recent statements
by African trade ministers and by non-governmental analysts point
out that priority African issues supposed to be included in this
"development round" are still being sidelined.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two articles from the Third
World Network Info Service, one reporting on the Conference of
African Trade Ministers in Nairobi on April 12-14 and the other
summarizing a non-governmental coalition statement opposing
"invitation-only" WTO negotiation sessions from which most member
states are excluded.
Previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on trade issues are available at
Additional updates from Third World Network are available at
For "Geneva Update," a regular critical update on international
trade talks produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
African Ministers Reject "Partial Modalities" Approach to WTO April
By Martin Khor (TWN), Nairobi 17 April 2006
TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues
Third World Network
African Trade Ministers have declared that the WTO modalities on
agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) that are
scheduled to be concluded at the end of April must be
"all-inclusive" and indicated that they would not accept "partial
modalities" that leave out issues of concern to African countries.
This rejection, contained in a Ministerial Declaration, implies
that the African countries would not find acceptable the reported
two-phase plan by the WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy to first
finalise modalities in what he defines as key issues in agriculture
and NAMA, leaving aside other issues to be settled later.
At the sidelines of the Conference of African Union Trade Ministers
that concluded in Nairobi on 14 April, some African Ministers
reportedly met with Lamy and told him bluntly that they would not
accept an end-of-April deal that left out Africa's priority issues
such as special treatment for developing countries in agriculture
(especially special products and the special safeguard mechanism)
and a solution to the problems caused by preference erosion.
The African concerns add to the problems that have cropped up in
recent days that make it unlikely that the end-April deadline for
modalities in agriculture and NAMA (established by the WTO's Hong
Kong Ministerial) will be met.
It is also becoming more likely that a meeting planned by Lamy for
the end of April of some 30 Ministers, intended to finalise the
modalities, will be cancelled, postponed or scaled down. At the
Nairobi meeting, Lamy himself hinted that the meeting might not be
held if there is no progress in this week's Geneva negotiations on
agriculture and NAMA.
Kenya's Trade Minister Mukhisa Kituyi, who has assumed the position
of Chairman of the AU Trade Ministers, said in an opening speech
that he did not believe that the WTO members would conclude
modalities at the end of this month. This sentiment was generally
shared by many of the delegates at the Ministerial.
"How realistic is the 30 April deadline?" asked another Minister.
And the head of another delegation said: "After the Hong Kong
Ministerial, the EU and US have been blaming each other for not
moving ahead, and there has been nothing more in terms of
They were both speaking out at a dialogue session held with Lamy
and representatives of the EU, US, Brazil and Japan.
At the dialogue session, on 14 April, Lamy said that the key issues
in agriculture and NAMA would be discussed in Geneva in the week
starting 18 April. "We'll be in a position at the end of that week
to assess how far we can reach at the end of April and what sort of
Ministerial involvement is needed, or whether it will be needed."
The Conference adopted two Ministerial Declarations: on the WTO's
Doha Work Programme, and on the Economic Partnership Agreements
(that African countries are negotiating with the European Union).
It also adopted a resolution on regional integration
(rationalisation and harmonisation of Africa's regional economic
In the Declaration on the Doha work programme, the Ministers
emphasised that the April outcome for the modalities in Agriculture
and NAMA "must be all-inclusive and also address the concerns of
African countries. In this regard, the establishment of partial
modalities that exclude the concerns of Africa and its LDCs Members
will not be conducive to a productive and acceptable outcome."
Spelling out areas of concern to Africa, which should be included
in the modalities, the Declaration mentioned the following issues
in agriculture: the tariff reduction formula, special products,
special safeguard mechanism (SSM), preference erosion, cotton and
It stressed that the SSM should apply to all products, and that
trade-related solutions must be found to urgently address
preference erosion problems. There should also be full modalities
for the cotton issue by the end of April 2006.
On NAMA, the Ministers stated that they are concerned that the
modalities "may lead to the de-industrialisation of African
countries if their concerns on adequate flexibilities, less than
full reciprocity, appropriate Special and Differential Treatment
and erosion of preferences are not adequately addressed in the
negotiations. Accordingly, we expect the modalities to fully
address these concerns and provide for a credible trade solution to
the issue of preferences."
At the dialogue session, Lamy reiterated his thesis that the "key
modalities" comprised a triangle of issues (agricultural subsidies,
agricultural tariffs and industrial tariffs) and that they were the
key to "unlocking" remaining issues such as services, preference
erosion and implementation issues.
He repeated that the US would have to accept real cuts in
agricultural subsidies, the EU and Japan had to accept similar cuts
in subsidies and real cuts in agricultural tariffs, and emerging
developing counties like Brazil and India would have to provide
some real cuts in industrial tariffs.
On preference erosion, which is a particularly sensitive issue for
Africans, Lamy admitted that it would have a potentially negative
impact and a solution must be found, "but only if we agree on the
What this "sequence" is, or whether there should be a sequence at
all, has become a bone of contention.
Lamy's statement in Nairobi was in line with what he had told a
Green Room meeting of Ambassadors in Geneva in recent weeks, that
the planned end-April mini-Ministerial would be confined to
resolving "key modalities" which he had defined as agricultural
subsidies (threshold and numbers), agricultural tariffs and the
number of sensitive products, and the NAMA tariff reduction formula
(with coefficients) and flexibilities.
In this Lamy scenario, other issues such as special products and
SSM in agriculture, modalities for "Paragraph 6" countries (those
with less than 35% tariff bindings) in NAMA, and preference erosion
in both agriculture and NAMA, would be dealt with at a later stage.
The African Ministers in their Declaration have rejected this
"partial modality" approach to meeting the end-April deadline, and
insisted that their priority issues be included in the Agenda. They
do not agree with the definition of what are the so-called "key
issues", since to the Africans, their issues (such as special
products, SSM, preference erosion) are key issues and should not be
Their concern is that if a deal is struck on the so-called "key
issues" as defined by Lamy, they would no longer have the leverage
to have their issues properly addressed in the modalities, and
these would continue to be left aside and in the end neglected or
subjected to poor treatment.
The Ambassador of an influential African country, speaking after
the meeting, said that his Minister had spoken to Lamy on a
bilateral basis and made it clear that he would not accept an
agreement on modalities that excluded the issues of priority to
"We told Lamy that sequencing is all right, so long as it is the
sequencing of issues in the same document," he said. "But we cannot
accept a sequencing in terms of different timing, that so-called
key issues are settled as a first stage, and our issues are
discussed at a later stage, as there will no longer be conditions
present to properly address our issues once the so-called key
issues are settled."
Besides Lamy, also present at the dialogue session at the African
Ministerial meeting were Deputy US Trade Representative Karan
Bhatia, the European Commission's Director of Trade Karl
Falkenberg, a representative of Brazil's Foreign Minister and a
representative of Japan.
Bhatia was pessimistic about meeting the 30 April deadline and
about the Doha agenda as a whole. "The US shares the concern
expressed by many of you today about where we stand on Doha," he
said. "We face a significant challenge in meeting the end-of-April
deadline on modalities.
"Even more troubling, we do not see a depth of commitment to the
goal of an ambitious outcome that we (both Africa and the US) must
have to make a deal that is politically saleable and meets the
development promise of Doha."
Falkenberg said the EU remains committed and wants real cuts in
agriculture. But he could not predict what would happen at the end
of April. He sounded a high note of warning to the African
Ministers, that if the ambitious market access proposals in
agriculture are accepted, then Africa will bear a risk that 70% of
its agricultural exports to the EU would be lost to more
competitive producers, as a result of preference erosion.
This statement was seen by several observers to be a call by the EU
to African countries to support the EU's defensive position of not
having deeper cuts in its agricultural tariffs.
At the opening session of the Ministerial segment of the
Conference, the African Union's Trade Commissioner Elizabeth Tankeu
said that not much progress had been made in the WTO negotiations
on major issues of interest and concern to Africa.
"In spite of the Doha commitment to place the needs of developing
countries at the heart of the negotiations, the developed countries
have not mustered the political will to offer the necessary
negotiating flexibility to ensure a favourable outcome of the Round
for developing countries," she said.
"In agriculture and NAMA, there has been a lack of progress, with
the developed countries being more concerned about protecting their
interests and dominant position in global trade than in placing the
needs and interests of developing countries at the heart of the
"This development calls for concerted and collective efforts by
African countries to ensure the negotiations remain faithful to the
promise of Doha and achieve fully the development objectives of the
Round. Africa has the right to insist that an outcome of the Doha
Round negotiations that does not take adequate account of its major
interest and concerns will not be acceptable."
The Kenyan Vice President Moody Awari said Africa's greatest
challenge was its continued marginalisation in world trade. From
1990 to 2003, Africa's share of world trade fell from 3.1% to 2.3%;
its share of world services exports dropped from 2.5% to 2.1%.
The Doha negotiations must address the persistent imbalances by
recognizing the need for policy space through special and
differential treatment provisions in all elements of the
"Further, we need to ensure the outcome of negotiations preserves
the existing market access of our products and in addition secure
better and additional market access," he said, adding that removal
of structural distortions in agriculture is necessary to creating
a level playing field.
NGOs urge Lamy to cancel end-April WTO mini-Ministerial
By Kanaga Raja, Geneva, 19 Apr 2006
Published in South North Development Monitor (SUNS) on 20 Apr 2006
[in TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues, 21 April 2006 Third
World Network, http://www.twnside.org.sg]
A group of 125 civil society organizations, in a letter sent
Tuesday to WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, has called for the
cancellation of a mini-Ministerial reportedly involving only about
30 WTO Members which Lamy had planned for end April and early May
In their letter, the 125 civil society groups from some 40
countries criticized what they called the WTO Secretariat's
instigation of 'invitation-only' meetings, from which most WTO
Members will be excluded, to attempt to force agreement on aspects
of a Doha Round deal that have been opposed by a majority of the
The groups called on Lamy, as the WTO Director-General and Chair of
the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), to cancel the ''ad hoc
exclusive'' Ministerial-level gathering and ensure that all WTO
Members are fully involved in any negotiations regarding the Doha
Among the signatories to the letter are ActionAid International;
ATTAC; Berne Declaration; Brazilian Network for the Integration of
the Peoples; Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia; Corporate
Europe Observatory; Friends of the Earth (Australia, Germany,
Malaysia and the US); Focus on the Global South; Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy; Oxfam International; Public Citizen;
Public Services International; Southern and Eastern African Trade
Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI); Third World
Network; and War on Want.
The letter by the civil society groups to Lamy comes in the same
week as negotiations are being held at the WTO on both agriculture
and non agriculture market access (NAMA).
The Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration set 30 April as the deadline
for achieving modalities in both agriculture and NAMA.
At a 'Green Room' meeting of several WTO Ambassadors some two weeks
ago, Lamy reportedly indicated that he intended to convene a
meeting of some 30 Ministers in Geneva during the period of 29
April to 5 May, possibly to try and reach agreement on some key
modalities in agriculture and NAMA.
In their letter to Lamy, the civil society groups expressed deep
concern over his call for some Ministers to meet in Geneva end
April and early May, and opposed such a mini-Ministerial meeting
that could lead to critical decisions being made by only a handful
They pointed out that it was now too late for the majority of
Ministers to make their way to Geneva, especially when it remains
unclear what the agenda of the meeting will be, and therefore
unclear if it will be worth the Ministers' scarce financial
resources and time.
The groups also noted that Lamy's proposal at a recent TNC meeting
that "the establishment of modalities as foreseen by the Hong Kong
Declaration will require some sort of Ministerial involvement
during the last week of April, with a safety net beginning of May"
contradicts his previously stated commitment to a bottom-up
approach to the negotiations.
Any negotiations or decision-making process that happens at the end
of April or at any time should be all-inclusive, transparent, and
with the full participation of all members, as per the WTO mandate,
the group's letter stressed.
It also said that the current situation adds to the mounting
concerns shared by civil society and many developing-country
officials: that exclusive meetings of certain countries to further
negotiations in the WTO have become the main negotiating arena for
the Doha Round.
The letter cited these exclusive meetings as including the recent
WTO Senior Officials' meeting in Geneva on 7-9 March, the
mini-Ministerial meeting in London on 10-11 March, and the recent
micro-Ministerial in Rio on March 31-April 1, which Lamy attended.
The civil society groups said that the countries that are being
excluded from these ''undemocratic and non-inclusive
decision-making processes'' are the majority of the WTO's member
countries, including the LDCs, the ACP Group, and the African
These are the same countries which now face a Doha Round conclusion
that, if implemented, would harm the majority of their populations,
as confirmed by recent Carnegie, World Bank, and other studies,
because of the manner in which the negotiations process has been
dominated by the interests of the rich and powerful countries which
have forced development issues off the agenda.
The letter added that if Lamy's call for Ministerial involvement is
not to be seen as a willful continuation of this undemocratic,
top-down approach, then it is imperative that every member has
equal access to the decision-making processes of the Doha Round.
In this regard, the groups demanded that the entire membership of
the WTO be invited to be involved in all processes and all meetings
with regards to future WTO negotiations. The presence of some
Ministers must not become a pretext for exclusive Green Room
meetings where decisions are made without the presence of all WTO
They also reminded Lamy that Articles 48 and 49 of the Doha
Ministerial Declaration make abundantly clear that the
Director-General, above all, should be committed to ensure that the
negotiations are open to all members of the WTO and that they
should be conducted in such a manner that facilitates the effective
participation of all in order to achieve benefits for all members
and an overall balance in the outcome of the negotiations.
The groups said that this mandate however has been repeatedly
violated over the course of the negotiations.
They also voiced serious concerns that Lamy's proposed process is
likely to be a re-creation of the procedurally flawed situation
that produced the July package in 2004, where only a select circle
of Ministers were present at a mini-Ministerial in Geneva, which
became the main decision-making and negotiating forum. Decisions
were made without the full participation of the entire membership
that were as critical as those of a formal Ministerial Conference.
The civil society groups concluded by seeking Lamy's assurance that
honest, democratic and inclusive processes, not the interests of
the powerful few or looming time-lines, will determine the process
of WTO negotiations.
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