News / 11 December 2015

What are we going to do at the WTO-conference in Nairobi?

Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, will be the epicenter of international trade from 15 to 18 December 2015. The representatives of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which currently has 162 member countries, will come together to negotiate. The different countries tend to have very different and often conflicting interests, which makes it difficult to reach agreements. Burghard Ilge of Both ENDS travels with Minister Ploumen as an official adviser and mediator from civil society. His role is to inform the Minister about the views and interests of civil society organisations around the world, in order for her to take these positions into consideration during the negotiations. We asked Ilge some clarifying questions.

What will happen in Nairobi and what exactly will you be doing there?

"Every two years, the legislative body of the WTO gathers during the so-called Ministerial Conference. This will already be the tenth time this occurs, and Both ENDS is part of the official delegation of the Dutch government that will be present. I'm going to try to play a positive role as an expert, but also as a mediator between policymakers and civil society in developing countries. I will inform the Dutch minister of the views and interests of civil society organisations we are in contact with globally. Of course, I will not only be with with the official delegation in Nairobi, but also spend much time with the NGOs present at the conference. This way, I will be able to voice their concerns and requests directly to the delegation.

What are the key issues for Both ENDS?

"Agricultural policy is certainly one of the main items on the agenda at the conference in Nairobi. It seems increasingly likely that national food security programs in developing countries under WTO rules will be banned. Although the rich countries had promised to work towards a permanent solution for this problem, which is topical in India for example, it now appears that they will not live up to this promise. Especially the USA is makes trouble over this, and moreover the US threatens to even withdraw earlier promises about reducing its own agricultural subsidies.The decisions that will be taken in Nairobi will particularly affect small farmers and producers in developing countries and until now, I must say the expectations are not positive for them."

What do you expect from the Conference? Do you think there will be an agreement reached?

"This conference could prove to be crucial. If the US and other rich countries do not dramatically change their attitude and increase their efforts, they could very well be digging the grave of the very institution they created themselves. Then, opponents who have been advocating for the 'abolition of the WTO' ever since the beginning of the Doha Round, might get their way. If this would be good or bad? Opinions about this differ widely."

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