LDC stakes for Nairobi: Going all in?

11 November 2015

Although WTO negotiators are concentrating on advancing what could stand as a “mini Nairobi package” despite the global deadlock, there is growing consensus on the fact that it will be difficult to hide behind a meagre harvest to be able to envisage a future era with serenity. “Whatever we deliver in Nairobi, clearly it would not be viable, or credible, to announce it as a satisfactory conclusion of the DDA,” said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo in Brussels, Belgium while attending a meeting of African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) trade ministers.

All eyes are now turned towards an uncertain post-Nairobi era. Neither the content nor the framework of further negotiations is designed at this stage. The only certain thing is that WTO members will have to address those issues as soon as possible, because both the credibility and the survival of the system are at stake.

Meanwhile, expectations are high that the upcoming first WTO ministerial conference in Africa will, at least, deliver concrete progress on a development-oriented package of concern to Least Developed Countries (LDCs). For LDCs, will Nairobi result in a mere repetition of the decisions taken in Bali or will it reinvigorate LDC issues which have been put forward in recent months?

At a time when developed and emerging countries’ respective positions seem hopelessly crystallised, there is still a slight chance that at least LDCs get a few commitments. A limited harvest could occur in fields such as cotton, preferential rules of origin, services waiver, duty-free quota-free market access, fisheries, TRIPS waiver, and less likely on S&D.

For a harvest to be possible, LDC requests need to be calibrated to what other members are ready to give. For these requests to be useful for LDCs, they have to be based on evidence that they are economically meaningful for them.

LDCs are not responsible for the current deadlock which has led more powerful members to achieve their own offensive interests through exclusive agreements such as megadeals, megaregionals or plurilaterals. However, as they have no alternative, LDCs and other poorer members will be the most impacted countries by a weakening of the negotiating function of the WTO.

This special issue of Bridges Africa dedicated to LDC concerns and interests on the eve of the MC10 –produced in collaboration with IDEAS Centre – gathers views on both the content and the process on the way to Nairobi.

We hope you enjoy reading this issue and invite you to consult our upcoming Doha Round Briefing Series prior the Conference as well as ICTSD's Bridges Daily Update during the conference.

In addition to our renowned on-the-ground reporting, ICTSD will also organise a Trade and Development Symposium on the sidelines of the ministerial conference in Nairobi. The aim of the event is to provide a forum for discussion among governmental and non-governmental stakeholders on issues at the interface of trade and sustainable development, with a view to identifying policy options to address key challenges facing the multilateral trade system.

This article is published under
11 November 2015
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