Addis Ababa, 20 December 2017 (ECA) – The 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11), which took place in Buenos Aires from 10 to 13 December 2017, failed to reach a consensus on key issues such as a curb on subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing – a thing many UN member states have agreed to achieve by 2020 in line with the SDGs.
Worse still, a draft Buenos Aires Ministerial Declaration proposed by the Chair of MC11 was not approved, since there was no consensus over its reference to continuing work on the Doha Development Agenda and initiating work on new issues.
WTO Director General, Roberto Azevêdo, deplored the fact that “despite our best efforts we could not meet the deadline on public stockholding,” adding “It's not the first deadline we miss – but it is still disappointing.”
Mr. Azevêdo expressed his disappointment that MC11 “could not even agree on more detailed programmes in many areas. And I know that for many, especially the proponents, the disappointment is particularly bitter.”
Such disappointment was shared by many officials at MC11 such as EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, who said “the sad reality is that we did not even agree to stop subsidizing illegal fishing.”
For Stephen Karingi, Director of the Capacity Development Division at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the outcome of MC11 was “disappointing for Africa” and “points to the need for Africa to implement the continental free trade area (CFTA) as a means to achieve its development objectives and structural transformation.”
Mr. Karingi added that “CFTA would position the continent to more effectively develop a strong common position in the future global trading system.”
The trade ministers did, however, adopt three main decisions including to continue negotiations on fishery subsidies with a view to adopting an agreement in 2019; Continue the work programme on e-commerce and the moratorium of not imposing customs duties on electronic transactions until the next Ministerial Conference; and support the continuation of the work of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council on “TRIPS Non-Violation and Situation Complaints”.
Mr. Karingi noted that ECA supported the African Group in its preparation for MC11, through organizing a retreat of the African Group in Geneva in July 2017, a consultative meeting for the Group in Addis Ababa in September 2017 and by preparing a policy brief.
Such pre-MC11 events, he stated, “brought ministers together with Geneva-based African ambassadors and trade negotiators to discuss the African Group's priorities and identify a way forward towards MC11”
Mr. Karingi who earlier participated in the WTO Chairs Programme Annual Conference on 6 - 7 December 2017 said he “agreed to host the African Chairs next year at ECA, so that we can expose them to the need to look at the synergies between the CFTA and the work they are doing with a focus on the WTO.”
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