Pacific WTO Members Urged Not To Negotiate At Bali Meeting

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

News Release

Pacific Network on Globalisation Suva, Fiji

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) is calling on Pacific members of the World Trade Organisation to honour the previous statement by the Director General and not let this week’s Ministerial meet become a negotiation on the current issues.

Negotiations were officially suspended in Geneva on November 26 following the meeting of the General Council with the Director General commenting that "holding negotiations in the short time that we’re going to have in Bali would be simply impracticable with over 100 ministers around the table."

The following day a meeting was convened between the Least Developed Countries (LDC) interim chair, Solomon Islands Ambassador Marlene Mose, which ended with alleged agreement by Least Developed Countries on Section II of the Trade Facilitation agreement.

PANG’s trade campaigner, Adam Wolfenden who is currently in Bali commented that "the LDC grouping has yet to reconvene and actually accept any interim deal that was agreed back in Geneva, so to hear calls that countries must conclude a Bali deal this week is pre-emptive."

Some countries had hoped that the Bali Ministerial would see balanced agreement that delivers for Developing Countries and LDCs on negotiations covering Trade Facilitation, Agriculture and LDC issues. Trade Facilitation negotiations aimed to streamline the passage of goods clearing borders. Section II of the Trade Facilitation negotiations deals with the issue of assistance for Developing and Least Developed Countries to comply with any outcomes that resulted from that agreement.

"What is reported to have been a major break-through is in fact a major concession from LDCs. In fact the current content of Section II of the TF agreement concedes the main pillars and safeguards which LDCs and Developing Countries have sought since the beginning of negotiations. These include safeguards for self-designation and self-assessment as well as any guarantee of financial assistance. In return all they have received were some minor additional timelines for implementation, the type of flexibilities that should be granted automatically for LDCs," continued Mr Wolfenden.

"It appears that the same old tactics are being used by the US and EU to try isolate and pressure vulnerable countries to agree to bad agreements in the hope that other countries will too. The Trade Facilitation agreement will see Developing and Least Developed Countries having to divert precious financial resources to comply with their new customs obligations, adding unneeded pressure on already stretched government resources.

There are currently three Pacific Least Developed Country members in the WTO.

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