Buenos Aires: The US on Wednesday blocked a proposal from India, South Africa, and a clutch of developing countries to ensure that the Buenos Aires declaration include a promise to address the unresolved issues from the Doha ministerial.

According to people familiar with the development, hours before the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Buenos Aires ministerial meeting was to close, the chairperson for the meeting Susana Malcorra, the Argentinean minister, convened a head of delegations meeting to see if members could agree on common language on the Buenos Aires ministerial declaration.

During the meeting, India, South Africa, and a large majority of developing countries waged a grim battle to insert language that the unfinished Doha negotiations must continue until all issues are resolved satisfactorily by members till the 12th ministerial conference in 2019.

This proposal was also supported by China. “We fully support the proposal from India and South Africa," China’s trade envoy to the WTO ambassador Xiangchen Zhang said in an interview.

But the US fiercely opposed any mention of the Doha work programme or unresolved Doha issues in the Buenos Aires ministerial declaration. The US insisted that there must be a simple statement without any prescriptive work programme, according to a participant present at the meeting.

The US’s position was also reflected in a joint statement issued by 44 countries who sought to erase the Doha work programme and Doha Development Agenda (DDA) from the ministerial declaration.

The 44 countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hong Kong (China), Iceland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, South Korea, Liberia, Singapore and several others, emphasized the essential role for the WTO to continue delivering meaningful outcomes.

They also supported the US on issues concerning “WTO’s trade monitoring work contributes to the effective functioning of the multilateral trading system, by enhancing transparency of trade policies and practices of members."

The 44 countries, however, differed with the US on one issue, namely, on how to reform the DSU (dispute settlement understanding). The US had blocked the nomination of judges to the appellate body creating a paralysis in the dispute settlement system.

“We underline the importance of ensuring its effective functioning. In this regard, we call for all vacancies on the appellate body to be filled without delay."

With just few hours to go, the Buenos Aires ministerial meeting is poised to conclude on a note of disappointment as frustration over failure to generate outcomes on mandated issues such as the permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food security spilled over into other issues.

Even a ministerial declaration—which is sign of a successful ministerial conference and which sets out the work programme for the next two years—is unlikely to come by because of the intransigent positions adopted by the US, said a trade minister who asked not to be named.

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