WTO Ministerial: Challenging Start Despite Latin American Declaration For Multilateral Trade System 11/12/2017 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)According to delegates speaking at the first plenary of the 11th Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization in Buenos Aires today, member states face the risk of leaving with no joint agreement at all. For the much-debated e-commerce file for example there are eight different and irreconcilable proposals, the South African Ambassador Xavier Charm, chairman of the General Council, reported during the Welcome Session Sunday evening. To counter the pessimism and signal commitment to the WTO and the multilateral trade system in general Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina, President Michel Temer of Brazil, President Horacio Cartes of Paraguay and President Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay signed a special declaration during the Welcome Session. Yet United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in his opening speech had strong words for the organisation, but signalled a commitment to continue working within the WTO to make changes. “Obviously, the WTO is a very important institution which does an enormous about of good,” Lighthizer started, only to press ahead with a list of US grievances over the WTO. He especially mentioned that the “WTO is losing its essential focus on negotiation and is becoming a litigation forum” where countries try to get judicially what they could not get at the negotiating table. From the view of the US, it is unacceptable that five of the six richest countries currently claim development status at the WTO in order to receive “a pass” on trade rules others have to obey. The WTO works best, Lighthizer added, when all countries work together in the interest of all while following their own interests. Much more positive were the accounts of the European Union, Japan, Australia and other large WTO members. Meanwhile, NGO representatives reported the removal of accreditation and ban for dozens of NGO representatives from participation in MC11 Buenos Aires. Contrary to the commitments of delegations inside for “inclusiveness”, the Argentine host according to reports from several organisations even denied entry to the country to a number of NGO delegates. Civil society participants who were denied entry at the border and were deported include Sally Burch of Agencia Latinoamericana de Información (ALAI) and Petter Slaatrem Titland, leader of Attac Norway, according to information from the Dynamic Coalition on Trade. The US list of concerns from Lighthizer’s speech is reprinted below: “First, the WTO is obviously an important institution. It does an enormous amount of good, and provides a helpful negotiating forum for Contracting Parties. But, in our opinion, serious challenges exist. Second, many are concerned that the WTO is losing its essential focus on negotiation and becoming a litigation-centered organization. Too often members seem to believe they can gain concessions through lawsuits that they could never get at the negotiating table. We have to ask ourselves whether this is good for the institution and whether the current litigation structure makes sense. Third, we need to clarify our understanding of development within the WTO. We cannot sustain a situation in which new rules can only apply to the few, and that others will be given a pass in the name of self-proclaimed development status. There is something wrong, in our view, when five of the six richest countries in the world presently claim developing country status. Indeed, we should all be troubled that so many Members appear to believe that they would be better off with exemptions to the rules. If in the opinion of a vast majority of Members playing by current WTO rules makes it harder to achieve economic growth, then clearly serious reflection is needed. Fourth, it is impossible to negotiate new rules when many of the current ones are not being followed. This is why the United States is leading a discussion on the need to correct the sad performance of many Members in notifications and transparency. Some Members are intentionally circumventing these obligations, and addressing these lapses will remain a top U.S. priority. Fifth, the United States believes that much can and should be done at the WTO to help make markets more efficient. We are interested in revitalizing the standing bodies to ensure they are focused on new challenges, such as chronic overcapacity and the influence of state-owned enterprises. Further, we are working closely with many Members in committee and elsewhere to address real-world problems such as SPS barriers. We believe that all of us are here primarily to represent our own citizens to secure rules that will best help them. As President Trump said in his U.N. speech, institutions like this function best when all sovereign nations acting in their own best interest pull together and find ways that permit us all to prosper. Finally, the United States looks forward to working with all Members who share our goal of using the WTO to create rules that will lead to more efficient markets, more trade and greater wealth for our citizens. Such outcomes will build public support not only for open markets, but for the WTO itself.” William New contributed to this report. Image Credits: WTO Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Monika Ermert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."WTO Ministerial: Challenging Start Despite Latin American Declaration For Multilateral Trade System" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.