As trade negotiators board their planes for Hong Kong, Aileen Kwa gives a pessimistic assessment of the state of play: In the first article she reports on manoeuverings in the office of the director general, and in the second she assesses the draft ministerial text, saying that the so-called ‘development package’ on offer is an empty box which the Africans and the G90 have no alternative but to reject.

Kwa, a veteran of WTO ministerials, sees six points where the African and G90 delegations can defend their interests:

 1. Reject Annex C, or replace it with their own alternative text that clearly does not lead to sectoral or modal negotiations. The current alternative text by ASEAN and ACP still mentions that plurilateral requests can be submitted. All references to the plurilateral negotiations should be deleted.
 2. In the main Ministerial draft, reject paragraph 5 (agriculture) since there is no convergence on subsidies – certainly the cotton countries would disagree that there is convergence on domestic supports and export subsidies.
 3. Stand firm in insisting on an early harvest in the elimination of export subsidies and domestic supports in cotton.
 4. Delete paragraph 13 (NAMA) on the Swiss formula.
 5. Insist that all special and differential treatment issues be dealt with as a package, rather than delivering five to LDCs and forgetting about the others which are of more critical value.
 6. Aid for trade that is offered as loans should simply be rejected. Even if grants are offered, they cannot be conditioned upon countries’ acceptance for an anti-development package in agriculture, services and NAMA. Such packages should be negotiated outside of the Ministerial so that they are clearly delinked from the WTO negotiations.

 This agenda will derail the Ministerial because the US and EU simply will not agree to it, but a derailed ministerial is the only way that the developing world can protect their economies and citizens from the ravages of further unfettered liberalization.

 The issue includes detailed analysis of the draft ministerial text, plus articles from South Africa and Dominica on what’s at stake in the Hong Kong negotiations.

 Hon. Charles Savarin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Labour, Commonwealth of Dominica