AU Conference calls for transparent WTO process

Original Publication Date: 
19 April, 2006
The African Union Trade Ministers' Conference, held in Nairobi on 12-14 April, adopted a Nairobi Ministerial Declaration on the Doha Work Programme, detailing Africa's position on the current WTO negotiations.

A separate Nairobi Declaration on the Economic Partnership Agreements was also adopted (a report on this will be published in the next issue of SUNS).

In a preamble, the Declaration reaffirmed the need for the WTO negotiations to be inclusive and transparent to ensure political ownership of the process and of the outcome of the negotiations. It emphasised the importance of the modalities to address issues of interest to Africa which have so far not been given sufficient attention.

The Declaration also contained two other paragraphs expressing concern at the current process of negotiations. 'We stress that the negotiations should proceed in a transparent and inclusive manner, especially at this late stage. There should not be any pressure on African countries particularly as they [have] constraints in terms of human and financial resources and institutional capacity.

'We are further concerned, that issues of vital interest for Africa have not been addressed yet. We therefore urge that the Geneva process remains the centre of the multilateral negotiations. We therefore re-emphasize that only a transparent and inclusive process can ensure political ownership and a consensus on the outcome of the negotiations.'

The Ministers also stressed that the Doha Round has to deliver meaningful results for Africa and LDCs and should lead to a win-win situation for all. 'In this regard, any proposed outcome of the Doha Work Programme should be measured against the development benchmarks that we have adopted and should fully take the development priorities of Africa into account.

'We are deeply concerned with the lack of progress in the mandated work on the modalities in Agriculture and NAMA. At this juncture, considering the deadlines at end of April, we reiterate the urgency to meet all the commitments and the development promises of the Doha round so that the development needs and concerns of Africa and the LDCs members are taken into account.

'We emphasise 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.

'We reiterate our support to the ongoing process on the establishment of modalities, and emphasise that the modalities to be agreed upon in Agriculture, should include all issues of interest to Africa and support policies that are conducive of the development goals, poverty reduction strategies, food security and livelihood concerns. Accordingly, we expect balanced progress and meaningful results in the negotiations on market access, domestic support, export competition, taking the S & D component into account.

'We emphasise the need for progress in the market access pillar, particularly on the tariff reduction formula, special products, SSM, preferences and commodities. We stress that SSM should be made available to Africa and its LDCs Members and apply to all products.

'We equally call for real progress in the areas of domestic support and export competition in order to achieve modalities that address the trade distortions faced by African countries in Agriculture.

'Recognizing the vital importance of longstanding preferences to African countries in Agriculture, we urge that trade-related solutions be developed to address the problems of preference erosion in a urgent manner in the negotiations. We further urge that this issue be effectively and meaningfully addressed in any modalities to be agreed upon in line with paragraph 44 of Annex A of the July Framework Agreement. Accordingly, we expect other WTO members to engage constructively in the discussions.

'We stress the vital importance of cotton and the urgent need to achieve full modalities by the end of April 2006 as agreed in Hong Kong, including the substantial reduction of domestic support and the establishment of a mechanism to deal with price fluctuations of cotton, as a matter of priority.

'Furthermore, we emphasise in the same vain the importance of bananas for some African countries and the need to assure a fair market access for its producers.'

On the NAMA negotiations, the Ministers declared that they are concerned 'that the modalities in NAMA 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.'

The Declaration also addressed the commodities issue. It recognised the serious adverse impact of the long-term decline and sharp fluctuations in the prices of primary commodities, and stressed that the outcome of the negotiations in Agriculture and NAMA should effectively address the particular trade-related concerns of commodities dependent developing and least developed countries in accordance with the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.

It welcomed the establishment of the Task Force on the Integrated Framework, and called for efficient ways of improving the IF process and delivery mechanism.

On Aid for Trade, the Ministers urged the Task Force to ensure a marked improvement over the current trade-related programmes for technical cooperation, including in the amount of resources and coverage of African countries.

The Ministers called on WTO developed members (and developing members in a position to do so) to operationalise the decision taken in Hong Kong regarding duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access and other S & D provisions for the LDCs, as part of the single undertaking.

On services, the Ministers stressed 'the importance of preserving the flexibilities of individual developing and least developed countries as contained in the GATS and LDCs modalities and reaffirmed in the Hong Kong Declaration.

'The negotiators in Services should ensure that sectors and modes of supply of interest to African countries are given special consideration. In this respect, we note that Mode 4 is of crucial importance to many African countries. Further, we call upon WTO Members to be committed to fully implementing the Modalities for Special Treatment of LDCs in line with Article IV: 3 of the GATS. It is recognized that LDCs are not expected to undertake new commitments.

'Considering the flexibilities provided for individual developing country Members in accordance with Article XIX: 2 of the GATS, we reaffirm that the collective request is intended to complement and not supersede the bilateral request /offer negotiations and the specificity of bilateral requests.'

On trade facilitation, the Declaration said the negotiations should take into account the need to provide technical and financial assistance, and appropriate S & D provisions. 'African countries should also be assisted in addressing their physical infrastructures and trading capacity constraints. We urge WTO Members to put in place an appropriate mechanism of addressing the needs and priorities of African countries in Trade Facilitation before moving to text-based negotiations.'

The Declaration called on WTO members to speed up the process for the grant of the waiver on AGOA and for this completed by the General Council in May.

Noting that no African countries have acceded to the WTO since its establishment, the Declaration called on WTO Members to facilitate and accelerate the accession of African countries to the WTO. 'We stress that acceding countries must neither be compelled to negotiate concessions going beyond generally accepted WTO rules nor subscribe to some exigencies about the clauses still under discussion within the framework of the Doha Round.'