Home / News / World /  Buenos Aires WTO summit: Old habits die hard

The more things change at a ministerial meeting the more they the remain same and Buenos Aires is no exception to this rule. Closed-door green room meetings among select countries are being brought back all over again, according to a trade ministers who asked not to be identified.

In the run-up to the Buenos Aires ministerial meeting, World Trade Organization director general Roberto Azevedo had assured members that there will be no green room meetings of select countries and everything will be decided in open-ended sessions. Azevedo’s promise to do away with the green room meetings—in which heads of delegation seek consensus informally under the chairmanship of the Director-General—stemmed from growing opposition to such meetings from a large majority of African countries who said they were excluded from the green room process, said an African trade minister.

But, the first green room meeting of six countries—the US, European Union, China, India, Brazil, and Australia—was set to take place on agriculture on Monday, convened by the facilitator for agriculture outcomes Amina Mohamed, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for foreign affairs.

The meeting, according to a trade minister who asked not to be named, was being convened because of Brazil’s demand for linking an outcome on domestic support with the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security.

Brazil wants a ‘payment’ for the permanent solution for public stockholding programs under the controversial slogan of parity between three agricultural issues—the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security, an outcome on overall trade-distorting support, and cotton—according to a South American trade official.

The EU and Australia are supporting Brazil’s demand, the South American trade official said. “Out of six members, three—Brazil, Australia and the EU—support the linkage between domestic support and the permanent solution," the source added.

While the US is expected to remain silent during the meeting, China and India are expected to reject any attempt to link domestic support and the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security, according to people will be participating in the green room meeting.

China and India have called for the elimination of the aggregate measurement of support (AMS), the most trade-distorting domestic support in industrialized countries, as a prerequisite for starting work on the domestic support. The EU, Brazil and Australia had rejected the China-India demand.

In a separate development, a large majority of developing countries are expected to reject a proposal for nominating a facilitator for Investment Facilitation which is being pushed hard by Argentina, China, and 30 other countries. The proponents for investment facilitation are seeking “structured discussions" to develop a multilateral framework on investment facilitation.

Argentina, which has been coordinating the informal group on investment facilitation and development, yesterday issued a report explaining the background for the demand to have structured discussions for identifying and developing elements of a framework for facilitating foreign direct investments.

The informal group which includes China, Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Qatar wants the structured discussions to focus on the following themes: (a) improving regulatory transparency and predictability, (b) streamlining and speeding up administrative procedures, (c) enhancing international cooperation and addressing the needs of developing members and (d) other investment facilitation-related issues.

The sponsors maintained that “the right of members to regulate in order to meet their policy objectives shall be an integral part of the framework." They maintained that “the framework shall also be designed to be flexible, adaptable, and responsive to the evolving investment facilitation priorities of Members."

But India and a large majority of developing countries are going to reject the proposal for appointing a facilitator for investment facilitation, an Indian official said. India repeatedly opposed any discussion on investment facilitation at the WTO saying it is not an issue of the WTO’s mandate and that it cannot be discussed without first completing work on the unresolved Doha Development Agenda issues, according to people familiar with India’s stand.

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