What are the leading issues at Buenos Aires Ministerial Conference of WTO?

Argentina will host the Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO. Ministerial Conference is the decision-making body of the WTO that takes important trade liberalization decisions. The Eleventh Ministerial Conference will take place at Buenos Aires, between December 11to 14.

Backgrounder for the MC

The Buenos Aires MC is going to continue the work started at Nairobi MC (10th). Nairobi Package shows an end to the Doha Development Agenda under which developing countries requested favorable treatments on key issues like Agriculture, Intellectual Property Rights etc. Lack of consensus between developing countries led by India and developed countries led by USA has produced a stalemate in the case of Doha Agenda. At the same time, the Nairobi Package has shown willingness to consider new issues or what some countries call as 21st century issues.

Another firm step that the Nairobi meeting considered was to restore primacy to WTO in world trade affairs. At present, it is the regional trade blocs or free trade agreements that makes big trade liberalization decisions. The WTO has appointed a committee to study the working of RTAs.

Agenda of the 11th Ministerial Conference

The Buenos Aires MC is likely to follow the footsteps of Nairobi closely. This is because, some new issues were opened at Nairobi. At least the member countries have shown interest in discussing new issues like ecommerce.

In the context of this fresh willingness, the members may discuss new issues like ecommerce, enhancing the participation of MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) in ecommerce trade, service trade promotion etc. Even government procurement and investment may be considered at Buenos Aires. But given the resistance of developing countries against new issues generally, only ecommerce may be considered at the MC.

At the same time, there are several issues that the Nairobi pledged to consider or finalize at the 11th MC. These includes –public stockholding for food security purposes, a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries in agriculture and measures related to cotton trade.

The food security related public stock holding is of prime importance for India. At the Bali MC, WTO has promised to settle India’s food subsidy for securing food security at the eleventh MC. Such a dead line is occurring at Buenos Aires.

Similarly, the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) against high level of agricultural goods imports are requested by India and the issue is yet to be solved.

In conclusion, though the Eleventh MC is expected to bring several new issues like ecommerce, it is expected to settle some old issues including food security related food subsidy and SSM.