Brussels, 21 October 2010/ ACP: Ministers and senior officials of trade from more than 50 member countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States are in Brussels for two days to decide on a common strategic position in the lead up to the Tenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to be held in Nairobi, Kenya on 15-18 December.

The WTO Conference is the highest decision-making body and meets every two years. It can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements.

Opening the meeting as Chair, the Minister of Trade & Industry of Lesotho Hon. Joshua Sitepa stated that while the previous WTO Conference restored some confidence in the trade negotiations known as the Doha Development Round, “preparations for the Nairobi Ministerial is of great concern and has created some anxiety” amongst ACP countries. Read full statement

Sixty-one member countries of the ACP Group of States are also WTO members, with 7 observers. Most are Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs).

“Our members in Geneva have put forward proposals that have been recognised but are not yet included in the so called mini-package [proposed areas to be agreed upon at the WTO Ministerial Conference]. As of today, the agenda for the Conference has not been set. The nature of the outcome document has not been agreed. The road ahead is foggy,” Hon. Sitepa told the meeting.

Later today, the ACP trade ministers will adopt a declaration on the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference as well as a strategy for the ACP Group’s participation in Nairobi. The declaration will cover issues related to development, agriculture, Non-Agricultural Goods Market Access (NAMA), and provisions for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs). The ACP Group supports a post-Nairobi work programme that will lead to the successful conclusion of all outstanding Doha Development Agenda issues.

EU supports development dimension

A special session on Tuesday was dedicated to an exchange of views with the EU Commissioner for Trade Ms. Cecilia Malmstrom.

Commissioner Malmstrom stressed the dedication of the EU to achieving a meaningful outcome at the WTO Conference and called on both EU and ACP sides to work together on approaches to the negotiations that will deliver results.

She emphasised that there was no expectation that Least Developed Countries (LDCs) or Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) to make concessions beyond their capacity, however, large emerging economies cannot be treated with the same flexibilities.

She said that of the main priorities for the EU at the 10thWTO Ministerial is to “achieve robust development outcomes”, including support for flexibilities and less-than-full reciprocity for developing countries.

Underlining the great importance that the EU attaches to the multilateral trading system and the Doha round, Commissioner Malmstrom conveyed some disappointment that the "lack of political will from many WTO Members makes it very hard to achieve a comprehensive agreement on all areas of the Doha Development Agenda", cites DG Trade.

The Commissioner outlined the EU position in the three main areas currently under discussion at the WTO in Geneva – agriculture export competition, development and transparency – and stressed the importance of identifying a viable way forward for WTO negotiations beyond Nairobi. For the EU, there is a need to explore new approaches to finally unlock the long-lasting stalemate in the WTO negotiations.
ACP ministers will hold further discussions with WTO Director General Robert Azevedo and Kenyan Foreign Affairs & International Trade Minister Amina Mohammed on Wednesday, including talks on how WTO negotiations should advance after the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference.

– ACP Press

Other sources: DG Trade