As G20 trade ministers meet in Sydney, international CSOs urge that development must come before “Trade Facilitation” in WTO

Original Publication Date: 
18 July, 2014
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Today, 156* civil society organizations and trade unions from more than 150 developing and developed countries urged government representatives in Geneva to “condition the entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) to the conclusion and fulfillment of the Development mandate under the Doha negotiations.” Among the endorsers were major international and regional networks, such as the ACP Civil Society Forum, LDC Watch, the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD) in the Americas, the global union federation Public Services International (PSI), and the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID). The letter was organized by the Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network.

News reports have cited pressure from the Director General of the WTO, Roberto Azevêdo, on G20 Trade Ministers, particularly India and South Africa, to abandon their pro-development positions and agree this weekend to the developed countries’ position on negotiations that are ongoing in the WTO. But the G20 only represents a small fraction of the 160 members of the WTO.

In particular, there is wide divergence of position regarding a protocol for the “entry into force” of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. It is well-known that the TFA was a proposal of the developed countries. The letter notes that “it would be unconscionable for the liberalization demands of the developed countries to form an ‘Early Harvest’ at the expense of concluding binding rules on Food Security, LDCs issues, and other urgent development-focused proposals which require the full and immediate attention of WTO members.”

Thus, the letter highlights that “developing country and LDC members of the WTO are correct to demand that the TFA only enters into force upon completion of the single undertaking under the Doha Work Programme, and particularly the fulfillment of its Development mandate.

“Developing countries and LDCs have made concrete proposals regarding the Development mandate, including implementation issues, strengthening and operationalizing Special and Differential Treatment (SDT), agriculture, and LDCs issues, and it is these issues which must be re-prioritized in the agenda,” civil society argues. The letter further states that “[i]t must be recalled that developing countries only agreed to initiate the Doha Round on the basis that Development issues would form the core of the mandate.”

* As on 22 July 2014, total number of signatories increased to 217