WTO Nairobi Declaration: Death Certificate for the Doha Development Mandate

Posted on 21 December 2015

IBON International Updates #16

Paves the way for neoliberal expansion of the WTO

Nairobi, 19 DECEMBER –  After extending for a final non-stop 24-hour negotiation between the major trading powers, the 10 th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded with a Ministerial Declaration that marks a turning point for the multilateral trade body according to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

The EU describes it as a landmark deal that will improve the global conditions for trade and benefit developing countries in Africa and around the world by getting rid of trade distorting export subsidies in agriculture. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo hailed this as the “most significant outcome on agriculture” in the organization’s 20-year history.

Aside from decisions pertaining to export subsidies for farm exports, the Nairobi Package also include decisions related to public stockholding for food security purposes, special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, measures related to cotton, preferential treatment for least developed countries (LDCs) in the area of services and the criteria for determining whether exports from LDCs may benefit from trade preferences.

The Ministerial also expanded and updated the 1996 Information Technology Agreement (ITA) which will remove duties covering €1.2 trillion in trade and make ICT products such as media players, game consoles and GPS more affordable, according to proponents. 

No real progress

But civil society experts dismiss these claims as mere hype to legitimize the continued existence and neoliberal expansion of the WTO, even if by tiny increments. 

Timothy Wise, Director of Research and Policy Program of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University notes that the agriculture text offers no real progress on the key deliverables demanded by developing countries at the MC10 - public stockholding of food reserves and special safeguards for poor countries to offset import surges.  

The Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty notes that as early as 2011, Olivier de Schutter, the former Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has already set out a number of requirements aimed at ensuring the compatibility of the WTO framework with the pursuit of food security and the realization of the human right to adequate food. The recommendations were aimed to promote food reserves and public stockholding programmes to ensure that developing States are allowed to insulate domestic markets from the volatility of prices on international markets. But these proposals have been consistently blocked by the US including at the MC10.

While the decision to eliminate export subsidies in agriculture appears significant, the already declining trend in export subsidies makes this far from the "big deliverable" the developed countries have made it out to be, according to Sophia Murphy of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).  Moreover, a loophole in the text on agriculture allows the US and other developed countries to continue supporting their domestic agribusiness interests by providing export credits not just to the poorest countries but also to any net food importing developing country -- which basically covers all major recipients of export credits presently. 

Prerna Bomzan of LDC Watch said the text on food aid

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