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By: WTO volunteers
Session 32: Speakers assess China, cross-straits
relations, and response to crisis
SESSION TITLE: Greater China and the future of the multilateral trading
China’s rise, how it is adjusting to change, and the Economic
Cooperation Framework Agreement with Chinese Taipei came under scrutiny
in this session.
Moderator Prof. Jean-Pierre Lehmann from the Evian Group at the
International Institute for Management Development (IMD), Lausanne,
described China’s importance in global trade. It is investing more
abroad than foreigners are investing in China. A major area of
discussion is China’s relationship with other emerging economies as well
as developed countries. China is driving globalization through trade in
capital, goods and services, he said.
The panellist then discussed the future of the multilateral trading
system from the points of view of China, Hong Kong China, Chinese
Taipei, and the rest of the world. Their perspectives were business,
legal, and political.
Prof. Yong Wang from Peking University said China’s rise in the
last 30 years was not in isolation. Whilst continuing to support the
multilateral trading system, and being active in setting up a
regionalized market in east Asia, China is giving up the old economic
growth model and trying to restructure its economy, moving from growth
generated by external trade, to one driven by the internal market,
combined with creating a balance in the internal market.
Arthur E Appleton of law firm Appleton Luff analyzed the
China-Chinese Taipei Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA)
from a lawyer’s point of view. He noted that
the agreement has political as well as economic implications. For
Chinese Taipei, the agreement is beneficial economically, but it has
also sparked a debate within Taiwan’s different political groups. Later
moderator Jean-Pierre Lehmann commented that economic and security
issues are very import for this dynamic and fragile region.
Prof. James Tang of Hong Kong University looked at China’s
emerging since the 1990s, when it was only partially integrated into
global economy. The seventh supplement to the China-Hong Kong, China
Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) represents a big step
forward by the mainland to open up its professional services to Hong
Kong, China’s businesses and individuals, which will benefit both large
and smaller enterprises. He added that as China becomes more important,
the eastern world should work together for a more integrated trade
environment. But lack of urgency may be an obstacle, he said.
Michael Garrett from the Evian Group at IMD said the financial
crisis has little to do with business and more to do with high debt. He
said China has no choice but to rely on its massive production sectors.
Both foreign consumers and companies benefit from trade with China,
while China also benefits from investing in commodities overseas, which
is a new form of trade. He also mentioned protectionism and agricultural
issues since they are closely related to the poor.
Inequality was raised in comments from the floor. The consensus
was that China is doing much better in terms of working conditions,
labour income, etc, following the same path that the present developed
countries followed in the past.
More on this session
Session 33: Speakers call for wide-ranging
assessments of the WTO’s impact
SESSION TITLE: Coherence and incoherence of the international trade
regime: Who profits from it? Can we change anything? How?
The impact of countries’ commitments in the WTO should be evaluated in
ways that are transparent, independent and publicly available, and take
human rights into consideration, panellists said.
These evaluations are even more important than before because other
subjects apart from trade are emerging on the international agenda, they
Among those at the forefront are the environment, climate change and
human rights, and they should be solved globally in a coherent manner,
They saw a clear and important link today between trade agreements and
the protection of human rights.
They called for evaluations of the impacts on the environment, social
wellbeing, trade sustainability and human rights. Only some countries
have conducted these: the EU, US and Canada.
More on this session
Session 34: Panellists differ on what is needed
to double food production
SESSION TITLE: Seeking coherence: How can international agreements
influence agriculture and world trade positively for the coming
generation in the face of global trends?
Panellist examining what lies ahead for agriculture and trade agreed
that the biggest challenge is to double food production in coming
decades but disagreed on how this should be done.
Session 34 tackled the extremely current and controversial issue of
agricultural trade policy. It mainly focused on the need for coherence
between WTO trade policy negotiations and related problems (climate
change, to begin with) discussed in other international forums.
The session consisted of two panels, the first giving a broader
perspective on the agricultural policy challenges of the 21st century,
while the second one expressed the views of farmers’ representatives of
six countries from all over the world.
The need to double global food production by 2050, while at the same
time keeping an eye on the problem of the climate change and assuring a
decent living to the two billion farmers in the world, was unanimously
recognized as the number one policy challenge of the century.
Nevertheless, the second panel showed the presence of clearly differing
interests, which place rich and poor countries in two opposing groups at
the negotiation table.
Mr Christian Anton Smedshaug, Senior Adviser of the Norwegian
Farmers Union, stressed the severe imbalance between the overproduction
of food in the rich countries, consequence of excessively protectionist
policies implemented over the past decades, and the chronic scarcity of
food which poor countries suffer. He called for a drastic policy change,
whose objectives should be:
to achieve profitable production everywhere
to release all countries’ production potential
to pursue “production oriented” rather than “trade oriented” measures,
which take into account the incentives that really matter for farmers
Prof. Niek Koning of Wageningen University pointed out that the trade
regulations established within the WTO, despite calling for trade
liberalization, allow rich countries to heavily protect their
agricultural sectors through the exemption given to direct payments.
This policy has led to an increase in the volatility of food prices,
which in turn discouraged the investment needed to increase production,
especially in poor countries. Policy makers should instead:
protect, when necessary, national agriculture without “disturbing”
use international buffer stocks (maybe managed by some international
organization) to stabilize food prices in the global markets
coordinate food and energy markets (by applying restrictions to the
use of bio fuels when the grain price exceeds a certain threshold, for
Mr Djibo Bagna, representing farmers from West Africa, recalled that the
2007—2008 food crisis was an evident consequence of the inadequacy of
present regulation. He noted that farmers in the US or EU are not happy
either. He emphasized the fact that the commitments taken in
international forums are often discarded, and that firm political will
is needed to address the problem seriously.
The second panel presented the opinions of farmers’ representatives from
all over the world.
A European farmers’ representative stressed their opposition to trade
liberalization, which would produce unfair competition world markets. In
particular, he pointed out the need for stricter requirements, in terms
of traceability and food safety, for products coming from developing
A completely opposite opinion was expressed by the representative of
farmers from East Africa: policies addressed to raise productivity
should be implemented, pushing the sector out of the subsistence trap.
Single governments are currently implementing some measures in this
direction, and it would be useful to coordinate them at international
level, within the WTO.
The Swiss Farmers Union’s representative stressed the importance of
“food sovereignty” in European societies. He also called for the
coordination of food policies among the different organizations, FAO,
WHO and WTO in particular.
The representative of Japanese farmers argued that WTO agreements should
recognize the basic right of all countries to produce food and at the
same time promote “responsible” investments in agriculture in developing
and poor countries.
A Canadian farmers’ representative also emphasized the importance of
food sovereignty and the need to secure decent profits for all farmers
in the world. At the same time, he claimed that agriculture is different
from the other industries, and appropriate policies should be
implemented to manage supply and favour local production.
Brazilian farmers expressed, through their representative, exactly the
same call for local production. Moreover, the representative asked the
international organizations to recognize small farmers at the same level
as big food multinationals.
More on this session
Session 35: Biofuels discussion highlights
complexity of legal and economic angles
SESSION TITLE: Biofuels subsidies and standards: WTO considerations
The session examined which WTO rules are relevant for support to the
biofuel sector and how to classify and notify these subsidies under the
WTO. Discussions demonstrated the complexity of the issue and the
possible differences existing between economic and legal approaches.
International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) member
Stefan Tangermann, formerly of the OECD, reminded participants about
the recent rapid increase in biofuel production and land use. He noted
that except in some cases like Brazil, this increase had been made
possible thanks to government support. The reduction of greenhouse gas
emissions was one of the arguments justifying this support, but some
people doubted its validity.
Prof. Timothy Josling of Stanford University briefly described
pertinent WTO rules under the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and
Agriculture agreements. He noted a discrepancy between the levels of
support notified to WTO committees and those calculated by external
organisations, like Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI).
The inconsistency can be addressed, for example through a joint
examination by the WTO Agriculture and Subsidies committees or better
cooperation between the different international organisations involved.
Senior OECD Trade Policy Analyst Ronald Steenblik focused on
sustainability standards for biofuels. Government support for biofuels
started in the 1970s. Today, fuel-excise tax exemptions, mandated levels
of biofuel use, required shares in transport fuels are the measures used
worldwide to promote this type of energy.
Studies on biofuel production’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions
produced a large variety of results depending on parameters like the
type of feedstock used or the direct and indirect land conversion
effect, he said. From these studies, Governments have developed biofuel
sustainability standards, which would impose minimal conditions — for
example in terms of life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions — that determine
eligibility for subsidies and mandates.
He concluded that these new standards could raise some issues from a
trade point of view, due for example to their complexity, their
heterogeneity or their focus on processes and production methods that
are not related to specific products.
WTO Deputy Director General Harsha Vardhana Singh recalled that
biofuel subsidies could be analysed from an economic or a legal point of
view. The WTO was based on sound economic consideration but had to focus
on the legal approach. The range of measures at stake was very large,
and so was the range of WTO agreements that could be pertinent, he said
From an economic point of view, the fundamental question to ask was
whether these subsidies were desirable. From a WTO point of view, the
question to ask was whether these subsidies were respecting the
different criteria set in the areements.
This difference of perspective could also explain the difference between
GSI figures and data notified to the WTO. He then reminded the
participants that a quick conclusion of the Doha Round would bring very
effects for the biofuel industry, through outcomes such as reductions of
tariffs, reductions of trade distorting domestic agricultural support,
non tariff barriers and environmental goods and services negotiations.
Finally, Mr Singh said there is no big discrepancy in WTO notifications,
especially in the Subsidies Committee where all subsidies must be
notified. Of course more progress can still be made, he added.
Following a question from the floor on biodiesel classification
as an industrial product, Tim Josling confirmed his view that it would
be more coherent to classify it as an agricultural product.
Whether ethanol subsidy could be considered as granting support to
agricultural products in the sense of the Agreement on Agriculture was
not easy to answer, Mr Josling said. He noted that such subsidies could
raise world prices, benefiting producers from other countries. On the
other hand, importing countries might complain.
Speakers agreed that from an economic point of view, different energy
sources should be compared by looking at the marginal impact on carbon
footprints, but they added that such an approach would be difficult to
translate into regulations.
More on this session
Session 36: Panel looks at the double-edge sword
of anti-dumping actions
SESSION TITLE: Antidumping Regime: A view From the competition policy
This session discussed the many linkages between antidumping regimes and
the competition policy, noting that emerging economies tend to be the
major users of antidumping currently, as a safety valve in the face of
Most panellist were not in favour of a multilateral agreement on
competition, due to the difficulty of coordination and the lack of
serious competition policy watchdogs in most countries.
Mexican Federal Competition Commission President Eduardo Pérez Motta,
set the scene by saying that in essence antidumping regimes and
competition policy are mutually supportive but that in reality conflicts
can arise. He also added that predatory pricing is usually one of the
toughest in applying competition policy.
Prof. Seung Wha Chang of Seoul National University asserted that
antidumping duties, allowed under the WTO regime, are a clear deviation
from the non-discrimination (MFN) principle. It creates restrictions on
cheaper products in reality, because trade law tend to promote
producers’ interests. On another note, Prof. Chang argued in favour of
some sort of multilateral cooperation and coordination, that could take
the form of a multilateral agreement on competition
The World Bank’s Bernard Hoekman inserted a touch of political
economy into this discussion, indicated that the real issue here is
trade liberalisation and competition policy. He said if he’s asked
what’s the rationale behind antidumping policy, the answer would be
“it’s all about protection”.
Because there was a lot of liberalisation taking place, the safety valve
was picked up by antidumping as an instrument for trade policy. Now a
lot of emerging countries are using it this way (major user now is
India). One reason for this, tend to be that countries less integrated
into global value chains have incentives to use Antidumping.
Furthermore if you look into the figures almost 50% of antidumping is
against China, because China is very competitive, so in reality it’s not
about competition policy but about “Import Management”.
Mr Hoekman was doubtful of any argument about the usefulness of a
multilateral agreement on competition
Prof Allan Fels, Dean of the Australia and New Zealand Scholl of
Government, enriched the discussion with his extensive experience,
including in his capacity as former co-chair of the OECD Trade and
Competition Committee. He referred to the Australia New Zealand
experience of having only competition policies saying that many
companies, particularly from Australia have different global value
chains and that’s why they regard antidumping equivocally.
He also adhered to some of the political economy arguments mentioned
earlier and said that antidumping tends to be considered as temporary
protection (that can last for years) and he also agreed that India and
emerging economies as a whole are the bigger users of antidumping
nowadays. He agreed that predatory behaviour remains a tough nut to
crack in competition policy implementation.
More on this session
Session 37: Focus on services and infrastructure
to reach development goals, speakers say
SESSION TITLE: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa:
Should services linkages be expanded?
The session focused on the existing linkages between infrastructure
development, services and achieving Millennium Development Goals in
Africa. The speakers agreed that no improvements in the development
goals could be reached without more attention given to strengthening the
services sector. They said the dynamics of the liberalization process
and the enhancement of regional cooperation should be considered
Ambassador Darlington Mwape of Zambia described his country’s
situation and the obstacles it faces to achieve the millennium goals. He
said those goals could not be achieved by relying on foreign aid.
Trade should be the main driver of development and poverty alleviation
but it is heavily affected by shortcomings in transportation, storage
and communications. Zambia, shares these problems with other landlocked
countries, he said.
The ambassador suggested that the challenges posed by energy power
inefficiency could be tackled by making use of the potential of natural
resources. Furthermore, he indicated that liberalization represents an
important step to strengthen the services sector but it has to be
preceded by effective legislative reform. Therefore, openness should not
be considered a panacea, he said. Commenting, Mali delegate Mr
Abdoulaye Sanoko agreed.
Likewise, UNCTAD’s Kalman Kalotay said the state is important for
balanced and long-lasting growth of the infrastructure in Africa.
Focusing on the impact of transnational corporations’ foreign direct
investment, he showed that most of the investment was exclusively
related to resource extraction.
On the other hand, local private investment has not played a significant
role, he said, adding that that uncertainty due to poor infrastructure
represents a major constraint to foreign investment in Africa.
Commenting, the WTO’s Dale Honeck suggested a topic for future
debate: could the increased predictability of applying the General
Agreement on Services increase investors’ confidence in sub-Saharan
The issue of enabling tourism to help alleviate poverty sparked a lively
debate among participants. Overseas development institute’s Jonathan
Mitchell and Mr Honeck argued that tourism could be managed
strategically in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals.
Mr Mitchell called for a proper analysis of the value chain generated by
tourism. Much of the earnings are still gained by travel operators and
lack of infrastructure frequently constrains the capacity of a
least-developed country to take advantage of its tourist attractions, he
Prof. Abdul Barkat of Dhaka University pointed out the almost
complete absence of infrastructural improvements within the Millennium
Development Goals’ indicators. He suggested that aid-for-trade should
represent an essential contribution for development in Africa and it
should be a challenge for the WTO to raise awareness on this issue.
Prof. Barkat echoed other speakers in calling for region- wide strategy
Contributions from the floor mostly stressed how over the past
decades has focused on trade in goods with little consideration given to
the service sector.
More on this session
Session 38: Making sense when a topic is
discussed in many places: TRIPS-CBD
SESSION TITLE: The (elusive?) quest for coherence in global negotiations
and norms: the case of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Convention on Biological
The debate about the relationship between the WTO’s intellectual
property (TRIPS) agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
has recently received renewed attention because of proposals and
negotiations in various forums. A key question is: how to ensure
“consistency” between these various debates.
The discussion on the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the
CBD has recently intensified in the light of the CBD negotiations for a
future international regime on “Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair
and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits from Their Use”.
At the same time, at the World Intellectual Property Organization, the
Inter-governmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic
Recourse is involved in “text-based negotiations with the objective of
reaching agreement on a text of an international legal instrument(s)”.
As the number of forums discussing this issue increases with a wide
range of interests, those involved may find it difficult to ensure the
various discussions are coherent and support each other.
The issue raises a number of questions. How can coherence be
achieved? Is coherence desirable? What precisely does it mean for the
discussions in different forums to support each other? What is the role
of the international system, in particular the WTO, with regard to the
lack of coherence?
The issues discussed include: (i) the method of measuring coherence
between the trade, intellectual property and biodiversity regimes; (ii)
Switzerland’s perspective of the interface between various negotiations;
(iii) the problems of coherence and the remaining challenges with regard
to pathogens materials; and (iv) intellectual property and biodiversity
in regional trade agreements.
More on this session
Session 39: Safety nets needed as countries
adjust to trade opening, speakers say
SESSION TITLE: The role of trade in fostering a recovery that is
supportive of employment
The relationship between trade and employment is complex and safety nets
must be available for the losers, this session heard.
Among the points made:
Trade opening too soon may risk eliminating certain industries in
What is on the table in the Doha Round is not meaningful for the US
because offers in non-agricultural market access (NAMA) talks would add
only 0.1% to US and EU GDP.
Developing countries are being asked to give up more in NAMA than what
developed countries will have to give in agriculture.
Many negotiators are not afraid of opening up to the US; their real fear
The Jordan-US free trade agreement has an ILO clause, which made it
easier to remedy labour abuses.
There was perfect income equality in China in 1970 but no one wants to
go back to that.
More on this session
Session 40: Panel examines the enigmas and
contradictions of South-South trade relations
SESSION TITLE: The new geography of trade: South-south agreements,
south-south asymmetries and the WTO
In her opening remarks, Ms Adriana Verdier of ICTSD emphasized
the importance of south-south trade. She mentioned that trade and
foreign direct investment among south countries remained strong and
increased despite the recent economic crisis. The trade of value-added
items between south-south countries grew by 34% between years 2004-07
alone and this pace is expected to persist in the following years.
However, this growth faces various obstacles due to existing trade
agreements. A study of the MERCOSUR to be presented in the Session
highlights where the barrier in South-South trade lie and the resulting
Mr Rolf Traeger of UNCTAD, provided further data to highlight the
importance of south-south trade for least developed countries (LCDs).
During the last 15 years, more than 50% of imports of LDCs originated
from southern countries and more than 50% of exports of LDCs are
targeted to southern countries.
Also, in 2006-2008, developing countries were the origin of foreign
direct investments to LDCs via private capital flows. Three quarters of
trade from South originates from only 10 developing countries such as
China, India, Thailand, Korea, S. Africa and Brazil.
The framework for south-south trade consists of various high level
forums, trade preference agreements and bilateral agreements between an
LDC and a developing country. Given the differences in economic
indicators of south, the bilateral nature of this framework gives rise
to institutional asymmetries reflected in bargaining power and terms of
Unfortunately for the LDCs, the agenda of the bilateral agreements and
high level forums is determined by the more powerful and trade
preferences are unilateral and non-reciprocal. Mr Traeger recognized
that these asymmetries cannot be completely eliminated, but they can be
attenuated by offering technical and institutional support to LDCs to
construct positive negotiating agenda (e.g. regarding flexible rules of
origin, reduced quotas, market access, etc.) and negotiate with biggest
developing countries as a bloc rather than individually.
Mr Umberto Celli of the University of San Paolo, Brazil, analyzed
the problems within Mercosur originating from its legal framework. Under
article 24 and the enabling clause of article 5 of GATT, Mercosur is de
facto and de jure a regional trade agreement which has to comply with
the WTO rules.
However, Mercosur is not represented to the WTO yet. Nonetheless, it has
legal personality and as such none of the countries can take decisions
outside it, but this has changed as more and more of its members are
embarking into bilateral agreements in the recent years. Lack of
harmonized rules for members within Mercosur and unclear agenda
regarding services and investments become the source of asymmetries and
resulting tensions within Mercosur.
Ms Juliana Peixoto Batista of LATN-FLASCO, Argentina, described
the inherent contradiction in regional trade agreements as in the case
of Mercosur: on one side these agreements are useful for countries to
reduce asymmetries but on the other we have countries that move in a
different pace and give rise to increased regionalism.
She defined Mercosur as a regional integration agreement in transition
and distinguished two phases of its development: the liberal moment and
the post-liberal moment. As its internal agenda is quite limited to a
focus on trade and includes very few exceptions, the current consensus
is that the agreement needs to do more in addressing asymmetries and
She offered the example of the agreement between Mercosur and Israel
where more flexible rules of origin and technology transfer were offered
for Paraguay and Uruguay and the agreement between Mercosur and India,
which adopted isolated measures, but had no planning.
Mr Timothy A. Wise, Director of Policy Research, GDAE, of Tufts
University brought to attention the big question: Will the current
developing countries behave differently from their developed
counterparts toward the LDCs?
To illustrate the rise of asymmetries in regional trade agreements he
offered the example of Mexico, for which NAFTA resulted to be a failure
in issues related to food security, stimulation of manufactured
Mexico’s example is more striking if we consider the circumstances when
NAFTA was signed. Mexico had everything a developing country could hope
for: access to the greatest world economy at a period of expansion (ie,
the US), China had not yet become a member of WTO, etc. but these did
not produce the benefits expected. However, there are still elements
that have proved beneficial in NAFTA and that should be used in later
The question and answer session generated interesting related to
Mercosur, its similarities and differences with the EU and whether it is
aiming at having a supranational authority. Ms Juliana Peixoto Batista
reminded the participants of the differing economic and social
indicators and the varying asymmetries between the members. A
participant from the floor argued that the limited agenda of Mercosur
limits also its negotiation opportunities among the member countries.
Finally, a comment from the floor brought back “the elephant in the
room” — lack of a multilateral agreement framework for investments,
which, if available would create significant room for negotiations and
to exploit growth opportunities amongst south countries.
More on this session
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