News / 29 November 2013

Burghard Ilge joins minister Ploumen on the ministerial WTO conference 2013

This week, representatives of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are meeting during the Ministerial Conference in Bali. There is a lot to negotiate, as many countries have conflicting interests. Although the WTO is good for trade and economic development of rich countries, it doesn’t seem to be beneficial for developing countries. Our Both ENDS colleague Burghard Ilge is in Bali as the official NGO-adviser to Minister Ploumen. He will inform the minister about views and interests of civil society organizations worldwide.


 2001 was the start of the so-called ‘Doha Development Round’ negotiations. These had to ensure that not only developed countries would benefit from the WTO, but developing countries as well. These negotiations had been deadlocked for a few years, but this year for the first time governments have attempted to design new texts and regulations that have to be discussed and agreed on in Bali. “For example, the ‘G33’ came up with a proposal”, Burghard explains. “This is a group of (now 45) developing countries. The Indian government is planning to buy products from small farmers for a price higher than the current market value, to them afterwards to the very poor for a price below market value. This is positive for small farmers and the poor in India, so to us it’s a good initiative. But according to the WTO and the USA it’s a form of hidden subsidy and therefore illegal. To the USA this will disturb an important outlet for their products. So there will be heavy negotiations this week.”


‘trade facilitation’

 Another contoversial proposal is the 'trade facilitation', designed by the rich countries. "Until now, the rich countries didn’t keep their promises on, for example, lowering their export subsidies. Instead, they came up with a new WTO proposal on so-called ‘trade facilitation’, designed to make international trade more flexible. As is often the case, in this proposal developing countries have to make huge steps, without any help from the richer countries, while the latter don’t have to do anything" says Burghard. “On top of this, the European Commission wants to make the agreements on this ‘trade facilitation’ binding. If the developing countries don’t meet these obligations, they can be brought to the dispute settlement mechanism, which can have very negative consequences."


Focus on development

 For minister Ploumen it’s going to be difficult, because of the many conflicting trade and development issues in the WTO. "The minister is being pressured by many, so we will have to see how she will weigh different interests. In my opinion the minister should focus on development." Of course Burghard will try to move her in this direction: “I am glad that I can provide the Dutch delegation with direct information about the consequences that WTO agreements may have for global sustainable development. In Bali I will also spend a lot of time with the NGOs present, apart from the official delegation. In this way I can articulate their concerns and requests to the Dutch delegation.”


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