Minister Davies wants action on outstanding Doha issues

Minister Davies wants action on outstanding Doha issues
Photo credit: WTO

11 Oct 2017

Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies says there must be outcomes on the outstanding issues of the Doha Development Agenda.

Speaking at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Informal Ministerial Gathering in Morocco on Monday, Minister Davies said South Africa’s priorities are aligned to those of the African Group and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group.

The priority for these groups is to finish the outstanding work of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), including in agriculture, to address the trade distorting domestic support subsidies being provided by mainly developed countries.

“These will remain high priorities for many developing countries and for Africa, and these priorities were re-emphasised at a recent Trade Ministers’ meeting at the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa,” said Minister Davies.

The meeting, which was also attended by Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Bulelani Magwanishe, provided an opportunity for the exchange of views between the Trade Ministers and for the Ministers to provide guidance to the officials in Geneva on the possible outcomes of the upcoming 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December 2017.

Minister Davies noted that there were many proposals that were discussed but there seems to be little convergence. There are different views on how the outstanding DDA issues should be addressed, with some countries challenging the agreed development framework under the DDA.

“We need to be realistic and make a call soon on which issues sufficient convergence has been achieved to be taken forward as possible outcomes at MC11,” said Minister Davies.

Balancing agricultural trade

The DDA is the latest trade negotiation round of the WTO, which commenced in November 2001. Its objective is to lower trade barriers around the world to facilitate increased global trade.

South Africa and Africa’s engagement in the WTO aims to, among others, conclude the DDA on the basis of its development mandate, advocate for a permanent solution for public stockholding, which aims to promote food security, and eliminate trade distorting measures, especially on agriculture trade. It also includes the elimination of trade distorting measures on cotton and to promote Africa’s structural transformation agenda and the right to regulate in the public interest.

Minister Davies reiterated the importance of the development integration agenda of the African continent. He said the outcomes of the multilateral level should not limit the policy space needed to industrialise and advance the developmental objectives of the continent. 

The first day of the WTO Informal Ministerial Gathering follows the Informal Africa Ministers of Trade meeting that was jointly hosted by South Africa and the African Union Commission (AUC) on 18 September 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The WTO’s 164 member countries will be attending the Ministerial Conference, which is the highest decision making body in the WTO.

Azevêdo tells ministers more commitment is needed to deliver success at MC11

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo told ministers on Monday that there were some promising issues on the table, but in all areas there remains a long way to go in order to deliver a successful outcome at the 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December.

The Informal ministerial gathering in Marrakesh, Morocco was attended by over 30 delegations, from different regions and representing all levels of development. The Director-General welcomed the level of engagement at the meeting and called for further political support in the time remaining before the Buenos Aires conference.

The Marrakesh meeting was co-chaired by the Minister of Industry, Investment, Trade and Digital Economy of Morocco, Mr Moulay Hafid Elalamy, and Minister Susana Malcorra of Argentina, who will serve as Chair of MC11.

Speaking after the meeting Director-General Azevêdo said:

“This has been a positive meeting with strong support from ministers for a successful 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires. We are certainly better placed after the discussion, but now need to translate this into action in Geneva. Ministers have heard one another’s positions and will now need to look at how to seek convergence – working with their Ambassadors in Geneva.

“There are some promising issues on the table, but in all areas there is still a lot of work to do. If ministers want to see a successful outcome in Buenos Aires, something more is going to have to happen in the coming days and weeks.

“We need to see an approach where everyone is prepared to make some kind of contribution. We can’t be in a position where members insist on a particular outcome and expect everyone else to accept that. This is dangerous as one size doesn't always work for all.

“We should also work to ensure that we get the balance right in assessing the issues that we think we can advance at MC11 and those where further work will be required. All of this will require the same intensive levels of engagement to ensure we have a clear path forward both in Buenos Aires and beyond.”