WTO

Opinion: “Slight Deceleration” in G20 Trade Restrictions but Continued Vigilance Needed

The latest report by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on G20 trade measures shows a slight deceleration in the application of new trade-restrictive measures by G20 economies, with the average number of such measures applied per month lower than at any time since 2013.According to the thirteenth such WTO report, issued on Jun. 15, G20 economies had applied 119 new trade-restrictive measures since mid-October 2014, an average of 17 new measures per month over the period.A slight decrease in the number of trade remedy investigations by G20 economies has also contributed to this overall figure.But it is not yet clear that this deceleration will continue and the WTO calls on G20 leaders to show continued vigilance and reinforced determination towards eliminating existing trade restrictions.The longer term trend remains one of concern, with the overall stock of trade-restrictive measures introduced by G20 economies since 2008 continuing to rise.Of the 1,360 restrictions recorded by this exercise since 2008, less than one-quarter have been eliminated, leaving the total number of restrictive measures still in place at 1,031. Therefore, despite the G20 pledge to roll back any new protectionist measures, the stock of these measures has risen by over seven percent since the last report.The broader international economic context also supports the need for continuing vigilance and action. According to the WTO’s most recent forecast (14 April 2015), growth in the volume of world merchandise trade should increase from 2.8 percent in 2014 to 3.3% percent 2015 and further to four percent in 2016, but remaining below historical averages.[pullquote]3[/pullquote]The overall response to the 2008 financial crisis has been more muted than expected when compared with previous crises. The multilateral trading system has proved an effective backstop against protectionism.During this period, G20 economies also continued to adopt measures aimed at facilitating trade, both temporary and permanent in nature.These developments confirm that G20 economies overall have shown a degree of restraint in introducing new trade restrictions. However, it is not yet clear that the deceleration in the number of measures introduced will continue in future reporting periods. It is also relevant that the slow pace of removal of previous restrictions means that the overall stock of restrictive measures is continuing to increase.The broader international economic context also supports the need for continuing vigilance and action.Trends in world trade and output have remained mixed since the last monitoring report, as merchandise trade volumes and GDP growth picked up in the second half of 2014 but appear to have slowed in the first quarter of 2015.Economic activity remained uneven across countries as the United States and China slowed in the first quarter, while growth in the Euro area and Japan picked up.Plunging oil prices and strong exchange rate fluctuations, including an appreciation of the U.S. dollar and a depreciation of the Euro contributed uncertainty to the economic outlook.[related_articles]Lower prices for oil and other primary commodities were expected to provide a boost to importing economies, but reduced export revenues weighed heavily on commodity exporters.In light of these developments, our most recent forecast (14 April 2015) predicted a continued moderate expansion of trade in 2015 and 2016, although the pace of recovery was expected to remain below historical averages.In the area of government procurement, work from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), identifying 65 measures implemented since the financial crisis, suggests that discriminatory government procurement policies have become increasingly popular and potentially affect 423 billion dollars of government procurement in the implementing economies.This report shows that G20 economies implemented 48 new general economic support measures during the period under review, with the majority targeting the manufacturing and agricultural sectors through various incentive schemes, often, but not exclusively, in the context of exports.The overall assessment of this thirteenth report on G20 trade measures is that the continuing increase in the stock of new trade-restrictive measures recorded since 2008 remains of concern in the context of an uncertain global economic outlook.Individually and collectively, the G20 must show leadership and deliver on the pledge to refrain from implementing new measures taken for protectionist purposes and to remove existing ones. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)Edited by Phil Harris   The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS - Inter Press Service. 

Opinion: The ACP at 40 – Repositioning as a Global Player

In his memoirs, Glimpses of a Global Life, Sir Shridath Ramphal, then-Foreign Minister of the Republic of Guyana, who played a leading role in the evolution of the Lomé negotiations that lead to the birth of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, pointed to the significant lessons of that engagement of developed and developing countries some 40 years ago and had this to say:“As regards the Lomé negotiations, the process of unification – for such it was - added a new dimension to the Third World's quest for economic justice through international action. Its significance, however, derives not merely from the terms of the negotiated relationship between the 46 ACP states and the EEC, but from the methodology of unified bargaining which the negotiations pioneered.“Never before had so large a segment of the developing world negotiated with so powerful a grouping of developed countries so comprehensive and so innovative a regime of economic relations. It was a new, and salutary, experience for Europe; it was a new, and reassuring, experience for the ACP States.“Forty years later, that lesson remains retains its validity. Unity of purpose and action remains the touchstone of ACP’s meaning and success."With a conscious appreciation of that founding unity of purpose and action, the ACP Group convened a high-level symposium at its headquarters in Brussels on Jun. 6. The event marked the milestone of four decades of trade and economic cooperation, vigorous and contentious political engagements and a range of development finance programmes – all aimed at the eradication of poverty from the lives of the millions of people in its 79 member states.[pullquote]3[/pullquote]In 1975, it was 46 developing countries that met in the capital city of Guyana, to sign the Georgetown Agreement and give birth to the ACP Group. They had recently embarked on their post-colonial path of independence following successful negotiations of non-reciprocal trade arrangements with the then nine-member European Economic Community (EEC) in February.Known as the Lomé Agreement, after the capital of Togo where it was signed, this legally-binding, international agreement had a life-span of 25 years to 2000. Essentially, it comprised three pillars of trade and economic cooperation, development assistance – mainly through grants from the European Development Fund (EDF) – and political dialogue on issues such as human rights and democratic governance.During that period, the preferential trade and aid pact undoubtedly gave an impetus to various aspects of economic and social development in the ACP Group. Substantial revenue was received from preferential access to the European market for exports of clothing, banana, sugar, cocoa, beef, fruit and vegetables, for example, and with the accompanying aid programmes.The benefits were seen in the economies of Mauritius, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Namibia, Guyana and Fiji, to name a few. Member states of the ACP Group, less-developed countries (LDCs), landlocked states and small island developing states (SIDS), had access to returns from trade for improved social services and in this sense, the first decades of Lomé were certainly gains for development in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific.But these gains entrenched an aid-dependency of commodity export economies with minimal structural transformation through value-added manufacturing and related service sectors in ACP countries.The fierce trade-liberalising world of the late 1990s, rising indebtedness due to enormous increase in the cost of energy and pressure from the challenge of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to the European Union’s discriminatory practice of preferential trade and aid to this exclusive set of developing countries meant that post-Lomé ACP-EU trade relations had to be WTO-compatible.Finding compatibility for “substantially all trade” between the economies of the ACP’s 79 members – grouped in six regions of Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific – and Europe, and ensuring that development criteria take precedence over tariff reductions and WTO rules have proven contentious in this long-standing partnership.With this overhang of tensions in its troubled access to its principal market, the ACP faces the conclusion of the 20-year Agreement signed in Cotonou, the Republic of Benin, in 2020.A soul-searching and vigorous process to be repositioned as a global player defending, protecting and promoting an inclusive struggle against poverty and for sustainable development in a world enmeshed in inequality is the singular task on which the ACP now concentrates.Such a task has entailed a series of actions that are informed by the report of the Ambassadorial Working Group on Future Perspectives for the ACP Group of States that was approved by the Council of Ministers in December 2014.The main thrust of the transformation and repositioning of the ACP is captured in the strategic policy domains identified in the report.These are in five thematic areas that address:a) Rule of Law & Good Governance;b) Global Justice & Human Security;c) Building Sustainable, Resilient & Creative Economies; andd) Intra-ACP Trade, Industrialisation and Regional Integration;e) Financing for Development.In each of these, and in ways that are mutually reinforcing, very specific programmed activities of an annual action plan are being prepared and will be executed.For example, the annual plan will address the thematic area of “sustainable, resilient and creative economies” through the mechanism of an ACP Forum on SIDS with financial resources, mainly from the intra-ACP allocation of the EDF and the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), one of the partner agencies of the UN system with which the ACP Group works very closely.[related_articles]Conceptualised so as to address systemic and structural factors affecting sustainable development, the ACP emphasises South-South and triangular cooperation as a major modality for implementation of its role as catalyst and advocate.The current stage of rethinking and refocusing provides an opportunity for 40 years of development through trade by which the ACP Group and the European Union could recast the world’s most unique and enduring North-South treaty of developed and developing countries to effectively participate in a global partnership where no one is left behind.The ACP has social and organisational capital accumulated from a rich experience on trade negotiations with the world’s largest bloc of Europe and its 500 million inhabitants.Undoubtedly marked by contentious issues on trade provisions to satisfy the WTO’s non-discriminatory behaviour among its member States, ACP-EU relations reveal the persistent battle of poor versus rich with a view to finding common ground on issues of mutual interest.The 40th anniversary celebration by the ACP Group at a High-Level Inter-regional Symposium on Jun. 4 and 5 witnessed reflections on achievements and failures, as well as limitations in the performance of the ACP Group, in itself as a group and among its member states, as well as in its partnership with the European Union and the wider global arena.The theme of the symposium covered the initial Georgetown Agreement and the ambitious objectives that were set in 1975. The high point was the keynote address by H.E. Sam Kutesa, President of the UN General Assembly.Interestingly, discussions revealed how relevant and timely they remain and of special note was the “promotion of a fairer and more equitable new world order”.This retrospective conversation has been recognised as fundamental for how, and in what direction, the ACP will craft its future path to continue the struggle against power, inequality and injustice, the core purpose for which it was established in 1975.Edited by Phil Harris    The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS - Inter Press Service. 

ACP Aims to Make Voice of the Moral Majority Count in the Global Arena

“Four decades of existence is a milestone for the ACP as an international alliance of developing countries,” Dr Patrick I. Gomes of Guyana, newly appointed Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries, said at the opening of the 101st Session of the group’s Council of Ministers.

OPINION: No Nation Wants to Be Labeled “Least Developed”

Since 1971, Maldives is one of only three countries that have graduated from the ranks of the world’s “least developed countries” (LDCs) – the other two being Botswana and Cape Verde.

The Double Burden of Malnutrition

Not only do 805 million people go to bed hungry every day, with one-third of global food production (1.3 billion tons each year) being wasted, there is another scenario that reflects the nutrition paradox even more starkly: two billion people are affected by micronutrients deficiencies while 500 million individuals suffer from obesity.

Analysis: Ten Reasons for Saying ‘No’ to the North Over Trade

India’s decisive stand last week not to adopt the protocol of amendment of the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) unless credible rules were in place for the development issues of the South was met with  "astonishment" and "dismay" by trade diplomats from the North, who described New Delhi’s as "hostage-taking" and "suicidal". 

India Stands Firm on Protecting Food Security of South at WTO

The failure of the two major players in global trade negotiations to bridge their differences has put paid to the adoption of the protocol of amendment for implementation of the contested Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) for the time being. 

From Havana to Bali, Third World Gets the Trade Crumbs

The world of today is considerably different from the one at the end of the Second World War; there are no more any colonies, though there are still some 'dependent' territories.

Fragility of WTO’s Bali Package Exposed

The “fragility” of the World Trade Organization’s ‘Bali package’ was brought into the open at the weekend meeting in Sydney, Australia, of trade ministers from the world’s 20 major economies (G20).

Public Stockholding Programmes for Food Security Face Uphill Struggle

Framing rules at the World Trade Organization for maintaining public stockholding programmes for food security in developing countries is not an easy task, and for Ambassador Jayant Dasgupta, former Indian trade envoy to the WTO, “this is even more so when countries refuse to acknowledge the real problem and hide behind legal texts and interpretations in a slanted way to suit their interests.”

Africa Under “Unprecedented” Pressure from Rich Countries Over Trade

African countries are coming under strong pressure from the United States and the European Union to reverse the decision adopted by their trade ministers to implement the World Trade Organization’s trade facilitation agreement on a “provisional” basis.

Storm in a Rice Bowl

Rice, a staple of the South Korean diet, is stirring up a bowlful of worry for Seoul. Under a promise to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the government has to make a tough choice on rice imports by June this year.

Trade – Growth Recovering but Restrictions on the Rise

The Bali Package, approved on Dec. 7 by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members, was a historic achievement, representing a significant boost for trade, growth and development around the world. But its true significance lies in what it allows us to do next to conclude the Doha Development Agenda.

Bali Package – Trade Multilateralism in the 21st Century

At the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), held in Bali Dec. 3-7, a series of decisions was adopted aimed at streamlining trade, allowing developing countries more options for providing food security, boosting least developed countries' trade, and bolstering development in general.