Report on AITIC Workshop on Trade-Related Capacity Building for Small Pacific States
(held in the Holiday Inn, Suva, Fiji, on 14-16 May 2003)
1. The main objectives of the Workshop were to provide government officials in the Pacific Island countries (PICs) with an update on the progress of the WTO negotiations in the areas of Agriculture, Services and Special and Differential Treatment, and how PICs could link these Agreements to the current status of developments in the Pacific.
2. The workshop included presentations on the following topics:
● Agriculture negotiations
- Progress and prospects
- The Pacific island interests
- Pacific island negotiating strategies
● Services negotiations
- Progress and prospects
- Analysis of Lists of Specific Commitments
- The Pacific island interests
- Pacific island negotiating strategies
- Formulating and drafting offers in the services negotiations
● New procedures for the accession of LDCs
● Overview of the implementation issues
● Special and differential treatment: the Pacific island interests
● How can the Pacific islands maximise their effectiveness in WTO negotiations?
3. The presentations were followed by interactive discussions amongst the participants and the speakers.
III. Summary of Discussions and Outcomes
4. AITIC provided a summary on the status of the Agriculture negotiations in the WTO. The main concern raised is the limited focus of the negotiations on the non-trade issues of food security, rural development and environmental protection. The deadlines agreeing on modalities for the negotiations on agriculture had passed and still no concrete outcomes were visible on the major pillars of the AoA, with the majority of members awaiting agreement on the agricultural reform of the EU. The presentation of the interests in the Pacific on agriculture provided evidence of the issues and constraints surrounding the PICs and how agriculture continues to be the backbone of these economies. The issues of smallness, remoteness and vulnerability have impacted the main agricultural commodities of the PICs and the governments must continue to provide domestic support to the sector. The strategies discussed for PICs to maximize their effectiveness on WTO negotiations include the following;
· The need the stress the issues relating to vulnerability, smallness and remoteness; · The continuous need for government to support farmers; · Developing niche products for high-valued niche markets; · The reduction of tariffs for agricultural inputs and equipment; · The need for ongoing consultations and marketing support for the private sector; · The continuous capacity building and technical support to the relevant government agencies mainly the Agriculture Ministries.
5. The presentations on the status of the Services Negotiations provided participants with an overview of where the current negotiations on trade in services had advanced. The linkages between the services negotiations and foreign investment policies in the service sectors were explored. This background provided a more focused discussion on what the PIC WTO members had already committed and what they were contemplating to offer in the new negotiations. The interests of the Pacific island countries presentation highlighted the importance of governments engaging in thorough consultations with the private sector on the service sectors to be committed under the WTO. The importance of linking these sectors to attracting foreign direct investment would provide greater benefits for the Pacific as many countries are struggling with the declining rate of foreign direct investment. The strategies to maximize the effectiveness of the negotiations included;
· Review and consultations with the private sector on sectors where offers could be made; · Review of the offers already made by the developed negotiating parties; · Linking the offers to the objective of developing an environment conducive for foreign investment; · Stressing the issues and constraints pertaining to vulnerability, remoteness, etc. in the service sectors; · Considering the long-term policies of the governments regarding the state-owned service providers; · Technical support and capacity building for the officials involved in the negotiating and implementation of the GATS.
6. The new Decision on facilitating the accession to the WTO of LDCs was presented. This Decision was part of the Doha Work Programme. This was followed by an examination of progress on the accession of the Pacific island countries mainly the cases of Vanuatu and Tonga. A thorough discussion on the accession of Vanuatu and lessons to learn from this accession provided the participants from Tonga and Samoa with the strategies on how to negotiate accession, which include:
· Involving all key stakeholders in the national committee for accession within each government; · Setting up of a regional working group to share information and strategies on WTO matters especially pertaining to accession; · Raising the awareness of those already members to participate more actively in the working parties; · Stressing the drawbacks of being tiny islands and smallness of the economies, with supporting economic and social indicators as proof.
(iv) Implementation Issues
7. The presentation on implementation of WTO agreements provided background knowledge for the participants on the areas on which developing countries have expressed concern regarding the long list of issues under discussion, of which only about half were included in the Doha Decision on Implementation. It was highlighted that on the one had developing countries faced severe difficulties to implement the Agreements, but also that developed countries had failed in some cases to implement their obligations. The sensitivity of revisiting the Agreements concluded under the Uruguay Round was one of the obstacles to resolve the implementation issues. The main focus regarding implementation centred on agriculture, textiles and clothing, S&D, TRIPS and public health, traditional knowledge, the relationship between TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), subsidies and anti-dumping.
The main concern that came out of the discussions was the lack of progress so far on specific issues and the delays in finding solutions for the pressing problems of implementation faced by developing countries. A secondary but related theme was the importance of timely and effective technical cooperation. The coordination in the area of technical support provided by the WTO Secretariat was found wanting. The main strategy that the workshop agreed to in addressing this issues was the need to stress the importance of receiving specific technical support from WTO to address individual needs and to coordinate other that provided by other trade-related agencies.
(v) Special and Differential Treatment
8. A presentation was made on the interests of the Pacific countries on special and differential treatment issues. Some of the issues and concerns raised during the discussions is the effectiveness of the current S&D provisions provided under the current preferential trading arrangements for PICs and the S&D provisions under the WTO agreements. The strategies that came out of this discussion were;
· Reviewing and analyzing all the sectors that PICs could negotiate with to expand S&D under regional arrangements, such as the preparations for negotiations with the European Union; · Making S&D suitable for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by recognition under the WTO of their special circumstances.
(vi) How to effectively negotiate in the WTO.
9. A presentation was made on various approaches the PICs could take to gain more out of the WTO negotiations. The main approaches included: consultations with stakeholders; greater coordination between PICs; improved knowledge of the Agreements, as well as specific simulation exercises on negotiations; workshops on trade-related negotiating techniques.
(vii) Outcomes of the Workshop
10. The Workshop had general consensus on the following;
a) That officials involved in WTO negotiations set up systems of consultations that would all stakeholders at the national levels in the process of preparation of WTO negotiations. This would provide feedback and advice to their governments on the important role of stakeholders, which include both specific departments and the private sector;
b) That a regional working group be set up to share information and ideas on future WTO negotiations informally. This has already been established under the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat. However most PIC officials may not have full access to this sharing of information;
c) That each Pacific Island government stresses the need for international recognition of the constraints surrounding Small Island Developing States and to create alliances with other island countries in pushing such recognition in the context of the WTO
d) That AITIC provides more technical support to the PICs in the other important areas of the WTO Agreements such as Trade Facilitation, TRIPS and customs related Agreements such as the Pre-shipment inspection, valuation and anti-dumping.
e) To maintain continuity in the trade-related capacity building workshops, it is recommended that AITIC seeks to involve the same participants in future workshops.
f) The participants acknowledged and expressed their appreciation to AITIC for organizing this Workshop and also to the Australian Government for funding this important capacity building workshop on the WTO for Pacific island countries.