B20 Argentina: WTO Ministerial Conference – limited steps forward

The WTO remains the backbone of the global trading system, although expectations regarding the MC11 were not met

Despite enormous efforts of the Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, and constructive negotiation proposals by several G20 delegations, the 164 WTO members failed to agree on concrete rules to limit fishery subsidies or a permanent solution for the public stockholding of food. The usual adoption of a joint declaration failed due to a lack of consensus.

First business forum at Ministerial Conference: the B20 role – The hosts, together with B20 Argentina and other partners, held a major business forum – the first time at a WTO ministerial conference. At the forum, two focal points of the Argentine G20 presidency were presented: trade in agriculture for sustainable food and the participation of women in trade. Participants welcomed the launch of the “She Trades Argentina” initiative aiming at a better integration of women entrepreneurs into the global economy.

In his capacity as B20 Chair, and as one of the plenary speakers, Dr. Funes de Rioja, urged WTO members to strengthen the rule based multilateral trading system including monitoring and the dispute settlement. Dr. Funes de Rioja was very positive about the importance of the WTO and stressed that Argentina should actively support multilateral integration in the world. The way forward in trade and investment Paolo Rocca, Chair of the Trade and Investment B20 task force and President and CEO of Techint, analyzed the current structural challenges to trade and investment. He pointed out the need for a “sustainable globalization” which takes into account transparent rules and economic neutrality of state-owned companies; and the necessity of discussing protectionists measures in trade that are taking place that could harm economic growth, introduce disruptions and generate conflicts between globalization and governability.

MC11 outcome WTO members only committed to agree on effective rules on fishery subsidies at the upcoming ministerial conference in two years. At the last minute, they avoided the failure to extend the moratorium not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions. This multilateral self-commitment has been prolonged in every ministerial conference since 1998. At the same time, a moratorium on a specific part of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was extended. A failure of the moratorium on the transfer of data would have resulted in new customs and duties and therefore would have caused additional burden on the world trading system. The decision also includes a fairly general plan to continue working on the topic of electronic commerce. Beyond that, an informal and open working group has been established, which is to bring about a mandate decision for formal negotiations on promoting MSMEs at the forthcoming conference.

Finally, conditions for the beginning of accession negotiations for South Sudan were agreed upon. Cooperation on digital trade MC11 reconfirmed that the WTO remains more important than ever for maintaining open and rules based world trade and to initiate new trade pacts. All G20 members must engage in a more flexible way, in order to revive the negotiating process of the WTO. It is imperative to move forward and to shape a modern multilateral trading agenda. In this regard, MC11 delivered another step into the right direction and in line with B20 recommendations: a new initiative on e-commerce, which is open to all interested stakeholders.

Source: B20 Argentina


December 15, 2017

B20 Germany: WTO Ministerial Conference Delivers only mincing steps forward

The World Trade Organization remains the backbone of the global trading system, although even modest expectations regarding the eleventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO (MC11) were disappointed. During the conference in mid-December in Buenos Aires, B20 leaders called upon WTO members to look ahead, build on the decisions taken and continue to shape a modern negotiation agenda.

Despite enormous efforts of the Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevêdo, and constructive negotiation proposals by several G20 delegations, the 164 WTO members failed to agree on concrete rules to limit fishery subsidies or a permanent solution for the public stockholding of food. Even the usual adoption of a joint declaration has failed at MC11 for the first time since 2009 due to a lack of consensus.

First Business Forum at Ministerial Conference

The hosts, together with B20 Argentina and other partners, held a major business forum – the first time at a WTO ministerial conference. B20 Chair Daniel Funes de Rioja, as one of the plenary speakers of the forum, urged WTO members to strengthen the rule based multilateral trading system including monitoring and the dispute settlement. At the forum, two focal points of the Argentine G20 presidency were presented: trade in agriculture for sustainable food and the participation of women in trade. Participants welcomed the launch of the “SheTrades Argentina” initiative aiming at a better integration of women entrepreneurs into the global economy.

Business delegations from many G20 countries organized and participated in side-events of MC11 in order to signal their support for the WTO process and called for a modern negotiation agenda. Overall, business engagement and recommendations were well noted. Several topics, brought forward by business, e.g. e-commerce, investment facilitation, and measures in favour of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs), became part of the official discussions and were partly reflected in the decisions by trade ministers.

Only Mini Results but no Complete Failure

On fishery subsidies, WTO members only committed to agree on effective rules at the upcoming ministerial conference in two years. At the last minute, they avoided the failure to extend the moratorium not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions. This multilateral self-commitment has been prolonged in every ministerial conference for the next two years since 1998. At the same time, a moratorium on a specific part of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was extended.

A failure of the moratorium on the transfer of data would have resulted in new customs and duties and therefore would have caused additional burden on the world trading system. The decision also includes a fairly general plan to continue working on the topic of electronic commerce. Beyond that, an informal and open working group has been established, which is to bring about a mandate decision for formal negotiations on promoting MSMEs at the forthcoming conference. Ultimately, conditions for the beginning of accession negotiations for South Sudan have been agreed upon.

Cooperation on Digital Trade

At MC11, the USA withdrew from its leadership role in WTO negotiations and countries like India and South Africa were less constructive in talks on new topics. However, MC11 reconfirmed that the WTO remains more important than ever for maintaining open and rules based world trade and to initiate new trade pacts. All G20 members must engage in a more flexible way, in order to revive the negotiating process of the WTO. It is imperative to move forward and to shape a modern multilateral trading agenda. In this regard, MC11 delivered another step into the right direction and in line with B20 recommendations: a new initiative on e-commerce, which is open to all interested stakeholders. 70 like-minded WTO members, among them most G20 members, have agreed during MC11 to hold discussions on facilitating digital trade.

Source: B20 Germany


December 12, 2017

BDI: WTO Ministerial Conference Delivers only Mini Results

Trade rules and the dispute settlement system of the World Trade Organization (WTO) remain indispensable. Although even low expectations regarding the eleventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO (MC11) were disappointed, members should look ahead. Now it’s key to shape a modern negotiation agenda.

Despite enormous efforts of the Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevêdo, and constructive negotiation proposals by several delegations, the 164 WTO members failed to agree on concrete rules to limit fishery subsidies or a permanent solution for the public stockholding of food. Even the usual adoption of a joint declaration has failed for the first time since 2009 due to a lack of consensus. In spite of visible disagreement in the run-up to the conference, these elements had been views as the most promising topics to reach agreement on at MC11 in mid-December 2017 in Buenos Aires.

Mincing steps forward

On fishery subsidies, WTO members only committed to agree on effective rules at the upcoming ministerial conference in two years. At the last minute, they avoided the failure to extend the moratorium not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions. This multilateral self-commitment has been prolonged in every ministerial conference for the next two years since 1998. At the same time, a moratorium on a specific part of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was extended.

A failure of the moratorium on the transfer of data would have resulted in new customs and duties and therefore would have caused additional burden on the world trading system. The decision also includes a fairly general plan to continue working on the topic of electronic commerce. Beyond that, an informal and open working group has been established, which is to bring about a mandate decision for formal negotiations on promoting Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) at the forthcoming conference. Ultimately, conditions for the beginning of accession negotiations for South Sudan have been agreed upon.

No leadership by USA

In the Argentine capital, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer critically assessed the WTO and left the conference already after three days. In light of the fundamental criticism of the WTO by the USA, this came as no surprise. However, regarding topics relating to subsidies, the USA participated constructively in the negotiations. Concerning the topic of fishery subsidies, it was on other members to thwart the process. The USA stood offside with its blocking of efforts to fill a number of vacancies at the WTO Appellate Body. This underlines the withdrawal of the USA from its leadership role in the WTO. While the USA has so far not broken with the multilateral trading system, negotiations will remain difficult.

A common declaration of the U.S. Trade Representative and his Japanese and European counterparts, Minister Horishige Seko and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, at the margins of MC11 confirmed that a strong common interest exists to take action in the frame of the WTO against unfair trade practices such as subsidies, state-owned enterprises, and forced transfers of technology. This declaration was mainly addressed at China and has been received critically by many participants.

Cooperation on Digital Trade

Nevertheless, the WTO remains more important than ever. An open and rules-based multilateral trading system and dispute resolution mechanisms are indispensable. All G20 members have to engage in a more flexible way, in order to revive the negotiating process of the WTO. It is imperative to move forward and to shape a modern multilateral trading agenda. The new initiative on e-commerce, which is open to all interested stakeholders, is therefore a step in the right direction. 70 like-minded WTO members, among them most G20 members, have agreed during MC11 to hold discussions on facilitating digital trade.

Source: BDI


December 13, 2017

U.S. Chamber Welcomes WTO Developments on E-Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued the following statement today from John Murphy, senior vice president for International Policy, regarding digital trade policy developments at the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial in Buenos Aires:

“The U.S. Chamber welcomes the extension of the longstanding agreement among WTO members not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions. The digital economy has emerged as a major driver of economic growth among nations at all levels of development, so the decision to maintain this moratorium is a demonstration of goodwill and pragmatism. We’re also pleased to see a coalition of 70 WTO members come together to explore possible negotiations on e-commerce in the WTO. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on this important issue.”

Source: USCC