ACP countries aim for solid outcomes at WTO

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Buenos Aires, Argentina, 11 December 2017/ ACP: Despite the cloud of uncertainty shrouding the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the World Trade Organisation, trade officials from African, Caribbean and Pacific States are rallying to ensure meaningful outcomes are generated over the three days of high level trade talks taking place this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The bi-annual event follows months of strenuous negotiations amongst representatives in Geneva, including a failed effort to put together a draft ministerial declaration for Buenos Aires, and breakdown in talks on some contentious issues such as special and differential treatment (SDT) for developing countries. At best, only minimal convergence on almost all areas under negotiations was achieved.

Despite this, a significant amount of work was completed in 2017, and ACP ministers are focusing on advancing on some of the key proposals put on the table by various groups. 

Specifically, the ACP Group is eyeing possible outcomes on fisheries (including on Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing (IUU), overfishing, overcapacity and subsidies disciplines), agriculture (domestic support, cotton, special agricultural safeguard, amongst others), and development (including special and differential treatment for developing countries) – even if commitments will likely be limited to a post-MC11 work programme.

But the crux of any of the ACP positions is that a rules-based multilateral trading system is crucial to global progress, and development must remain at the heart of this system. 

“We come to Buenos Aires embracing some critical messages,” stated Bradley Felix, Minister of Commerce and Industry of St. Lucia, as he opened the ACP ministerial session on Sunday leading up to the official opening of MC11. “First is the centrality of development in the work of the WTO for ACP countries, especially recalling the commitment to development issues adopted at [the WTO ministerial conference in] Doha in 2001, as a means to rebalancing the multilateral trading system for greater inclusion by enabling developing countries to realise the benefits from increased trade.”

“We are all small, developing, and least developed countries and appreciate the importance of special and differential treatment to enable us to have the policy space to pursue our development related goals,” he continued.

In October, ACP Trade Ministers made a declaration calling on all WTO members to take all decisions through a transparent, inclusive and consensus-based process. They demanded concrete steps to conclude the remaining issues of the Doha Development Agenda, while keeping development at the centre of the work programme. Although it spans 79 member states, the ACP Group contributes only 1-2% of world trade. The aim is to increase this share, while transferring the benefits of global trade to the one billion people living in these countries.

In light of this fact, the Ambassador of Guyana in Geneva and coordinator of the ACP Group at the WTO John Deep Ford stressed the importance for ACP countries to rally together as a united voice at the Buenos Aires meeting.

“We have been working all year to emphasise the added value of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries standing strongly together on issues that are important to our sustainable development. The ACP strongly supports the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and the recognition of trade as an important vehicle in the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the SDGs,” said Ambassador Ford.

The ACP Group remains one of the largest influential negotiating groups at the WTO.

(Photos from top: ACP ministerial meeting kicks off in preparation for WTO negotiations in Buenos Aires, with WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo in attendance; Minister of Commerce and Industry of St.Lucia Hon. Bradley Felix presiding over the ACP ministers meeting; Coordinator of the ACP Group in Geneva Ambassador John Deep Ford of Guyana with Minister of Trade and Industry of Ghana, Hon Alan Kyerematen; Foreign Minister of Kenya Amb. Amina Mohamed with ACP Multilateral Trade Expert Mr. Morgan Githinji; Delegation of Guyana led by Amb. Deep Ford; ACP ministerial session at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference MC11)

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