Trade Briefs

A nervous WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires

A nervous WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires

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15 Dec 2017

Author(s): Gerhard Erasmus

The word indaba has found widespread use throughout Southern Africa. It refers to an important meeting, usually of like-minded people, to decide matters of mutual concern. There may be good reasons why no one has yet thought of referring to WTO Ministerial Conferences as indabas. The WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference, which was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 10-13 December 2017, will also not qualify as a typical indaba. This Trade Brief takes a look at the outcomes from Buenos Aires and why meaningful breakthroughs did not happen.

One of the main functions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is to serve as a platform for new negotiations. Since the previous Ministerial Conference in Nairobi two years ago and the conclusion of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, there has been no real progress on new disciplines for global trade. MC11 has taken place amid many concerns over the global trading system, including how to deal with past divides and how to tackle new challenges.

MC11 could not agree on new substantive issues. Agriculture is the best example. It has become a cluster of issues and on some of these the WTO membership looks increasingly divided. No agreement was possible on public stockholding for food security purposes, although the Ministers gave their commitment to continue negotiations related to all remaining issues, including to advance work on the three pillars of agriculture (domestic support, market access and export competition) as well as non-agricultural market access, services, development, TRIPS, rules, and trade and environment.


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