The WTO 10th Ministerial Conference is underway, taking place from December 15-18, 2015. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference is the organization’s highest decision-making body and meets every two years. For the first time in its history, the meeting is being held in Africa – Nairobi, Kenya. What is on the agenda?
Liberia and Afghanistan will formally join the WTO as its 163rd and 164th members. Both are least developed countries (LDCs) and will join the ranks of 34 other LDCs that are already WTO members. Six (6) other LDCs are currently negotiating accession. The accession process is long and challenging and there are proposals on the table to ease that process for LDCs.
In theory, the Doha Development Round of negotiations, launched in 2001, is still underway. In reality, WTO members are deeply divided on the way forward. Developing countries generally support concluding negotiations and incorporating a long-awaited “development agenda” that address their specific concerns. Developed countries are more interested in moving on to negotiate rules on what they dub “21st century” issues — investment, competition policy, government procurement, trade facilitation, environmental goods and services, and e-commerce. At the 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali (2013), WTO members were able to find consensus on one of these issues and to conclude a Trade Facilitation Agreement. Can members find agreement on common themes at the WTO 10th Ministerial Conference?
Some possible prospects include:
Rules on Transparency aimed at making trade rules and regulations in key areas publicly available and easy to find for anyone interested in doing so. It is also important that existing rules be applied openly and fairly. Proposals on the table are aimed at improving transparency on rules and regulations in such areas as services, fisheries subsidies, and anti-dumping.
Operationalizing decisions taken in Bali on development issues of concern to LDCs to support implementation by developed countries on:
- simpler and more transparent rules of origin for the goods exported by LDCs;
- a services waiver that allows favorable access to LDC services & service providers;
- duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access for LDCs; and
- elimination by developed countries of export subsidies on cotton.
Agricultural export competition proposals to eliminate export subsidies and introduce new rules for export credit and food aid.
Finalizing the tariff removal process under the recently-concluded Information Technology Agreement.
The WTO 10th Ministerial Conference is also expected to adopt the following decisions developed within WTO working groups:
TRIPs Non-violation and Situation Complaints decision will extend until 2017 the moratorium on bringing complaints against WTO members whose actions a country believes has deprived it of an expected benefit, even if there has been no violation of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
Work Programme on Electronic Commerce decision will extend until 2017 the moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on electronic transmissions.
Work Programme on Small Economies decision will authorize continued work to understand and make recommendations on the challenges and opportunities experienced by small economies when linking into global value chains in trade in goods and services.
Continuing implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, WTO members are being urged to ratify the Agreement by the date of the Ministerial Conference. The newly-created Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation will also be launched during the meeting.
To learn more about the issues to be addressed and challenges of the WTO 10th Ministerial Conference click here. The biggest challenge facing members will be shoring up belief in the WTO and its role in governing the multilateral trading system.