The EU has a deep and longstanding commitment to multilateralism in trade. Over the past months and weeks, we have pushed very hard to make the 10th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference a success. The Ministerial – the first ever in Africa – starts tomorrow.
However, as we arrive in Nairobi, the prospects remain very uncertain. We feel compelled to call upon our WTO Partners to come to the negotiating table in good faith and prepare for the final necessary stretch needed on the limited issues selected for the talks this week.
First, we need a balanced outcome in agriculture dealing with all forms of export support, benefitting all, in particular the most vulnerable developing countries. The EU, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, later joined by Moldova, Montenegro and Albania, have tabled a joint proposal to comprehensively address distorting practices in the area of export support for agricultural products, be it subsidies, credits, food aid delivery or the operation of state trading enterprises. We need to take this opportunity to deliver a comprehensive outcome tackling in parallel all forms of export support. The EU is ready and able to give up its right to use export subsidies but only as part of a comprehensive, balanced deal based on parallelism. To do so we must have an equal contribution from those who continue to use other measures, and a comprehensive outcome covering all pillars of export competition. We call on all participants to work together to achieve such a deal.
The second block of decisions on which we need to deliver on this week is centred on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) where we want to see progress on trade preferences on goods and services, rules of origin, and cotton.
There is a worrying lack of compromise texts on the negotiating table ahead of this ministerial conference which hampers the prospects of a deal. We are also concerned by the deep persisting differences in positions of the WTO members as it comes to the WTO post-Nairobi agenda.
The WTO should keep working on outstanding Doha Development Agenda issues but with new approaches. But we also need to recognise that global trade has evolved since the Doha round started 14 years ago. After Nairobi, we need to jointly address many issues which pose major challenges for today's global trade. Such issues could include investment, e-commerce and digital trade, regulatory issues affecting goods and services behind the border, better discipline as regards subsidies as well as local content obligations. We need a clear vision for the years to come. Some issues such as trade in services, information technology and environmental goods are already being addressed in plurilateral negotiations, which seem a promising way forward also on other issues. But resulting agreements should be maintained inside the WTO framework and not outside it, and they need to be open for everyone to join.