Hostname: page-component-6b989bf9dc-476zt Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-14T23:56:02.442Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

The special safeguard fiasco in the WTO: the perils of inadequate analysis and negotiation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 September 2009

ROBERT WOLFE*
Affiliation:
School of Policy Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada

Abstract

The July 2008 attempt by a group of ministers to agree on modalities for the WTO's Doha Round broke down in part because they could not agree on a proposed ‘Special Safeguard Mechanism’ (SSM) for developing countries in agriculture. This paper offers a corrective to the conventional story that the breakdown was due to a simple conflict of interests over the SSM between the United States and India. The term SSM was first used in a Doha Round text in 2004, but neither the principles nor the commercial implications had ever been discussed by ministers before July 2008. The conceptual origins of the SSM go back to proposals in the late 1990s for a ‘Development Box’, but by the time of the ministerial, negotiators had been unable to agree on the purpose of the safeguard, or how it would work, including the agricultural products it would cover, how it would be triggered, the remedies (additional tariffs) allowed, or the transparency requirements for its operation. The SSM was therefore one of the least ‘stabilized’ parts of the text placed before ministers in July 2008. Members were far from reaching a consensual understanding of the SSM, which resulted in a fiasco that might have been avoided. Ministers should not have been asked to engage in a poorly prepared discussion of a sensitive issue, because inevitably they staked out incompatible positions. Members may subsequently find it difficult to back down.

Type
Review Article
Copyright
Copyright © Robert Wolfe 2009

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

This paper draws on reporting from Inside US Trade, Bridges, and the Financial Times, among many other media sources; all the reports are on file with the author, but are not cited for reasons of space. The analysis also rests on confidential interviews with senior members of a wide range of delegations and officials in the WTO secretariat, as well as on secretariat press briefings. I am grateful for the comments of Jacalyn Duffin, Patrick Messerlin and two anonymous reviewers; and for the support of this project by the Groupe d'Economie Mondiale, SciencesPo, Paris. Visits to Geneva were supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

References

Bown, Chad P. and McCulloch, Rachel (2003), ‘Nondiscrimination and the WTO Agreement on Safeguards’, World Trade Review, 2(3): 327348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bown, Chad P. and McCulloch, Rachel (2007), ‘Trade Adjustment in the WTO System: Are More Safeguards the Answer?’, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 23(3): 415439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
FAO (ed.) (2000), Agriculture, Trade and Food Security: Issues and Options in the WTO Negotiations from the Perspective of Developing Countries, Rome: UN Food and Agriculture Organization.Google Scholar
FAO (2002), ‘FAO Papers on Selected Issues Relating to the WTO Negotiations on Agriculture’, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.Google Scholar
FAO (2003), ‘India’, WTO Agreement on Agriculture: The Implementation Experience – Developing Country Case Studies, Rome: UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.Google Scholar
FAO (2005), ‘A Special Safeguard Mechanism for Developing Countries’, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO Trade Policy Technical Notes on Issues Related to the WTO Negotiations on Agriculture No. 9, 2005.Google Scholar
Friends of the Development Box (2001), ‘Press Statement, Doha’, 10 November 2001.Google Scholar
G-33 (2004), ‘G-33 Statement: Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM)’, 10 December 2004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
G-33 (2007), ‘G-33 Non-Paper on Special Safeguard Mechanism, 25 October 2007’, G-33, Room E Document, 29 October–2 November 2007.Google Scholar
G-33 (2008), ‘G-33 Coordinator Talking Points on Special Safeguard Mechanism’, Room E Meeting, 18–22 February 2008.Google Scholar
G-33 et al. (2008), ‘Statement of G-33, African Group, ACP and SVEs on Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism’, 27 July 2008.Google Scholar
Gorter, Harry de Erika Kliauga, and Nassar, Andre (2009), ‘How Current Proposals on the SSM in the Doha Impasse Matter for Developing Country Exporters’, Instituto de Estudos do Comércio e Negociações Internacionais (ICONE), January 2009.Google Scholar
Grant, Jason H. and Meilke, Karl D. (2008), ‘Triggers, Remedies and Tariff Cuts: Assessing the Impact of a Special Safeguard Mechanism for Developing Countries’, Canadian Agricultural Trade Policy Research Network, CATPRN Working Paper 2008–09, October 2008.Google Scholar
Green, Duncan and Priyadarshi, Shishir (2001), ‘Proposal for a “Development Box” in the WTO Agreement on Agriculture’, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Discussion Paper No. 3, June 2001.Google Scholar
Hallaert, Jean-Jacques (2005), ‘Special Agricultural Safeguards: Virtual Benefits and Real Costs – Lessons for the Doha Round’, International Monetary Fund, IMF Working Paper 05/131, June 2005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mably, Paul (2009), ‘Centralized Production: The Group of 33’, in Tussie, Diana (ed.), The Politics of Trade: The Role of Research and Policy in Negotiation, Leiden: Brill-Nijhoff.Google Scholar
Martin, Will and Anderson, Kym (2008), ‘Agricultural Trade Reform under the Doha Agenda: Some Key Issues’, Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 52(1): 116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Montemayor, Raul Q. (2008), ‘How Will the May 2008 “Modalities” Text Affect Access to the Special Safeguard Mechanism, and the Effectiveness of Additional Safeguard Duties? ‘, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, Issue Paper No. 15, June 2008.Google Scholar
Murphy, Sophia and Suppan, Steve (2003), Introduction to the Development Box: Finding Space for Development Concerns in the WTO's Agriculture Negotiations, Winnipeg: International Institute for Sustainable Development.Google Scholar
OECD (2007a), Agricultural Policies in Non-OECD Countries: Monitoring and Evaluation 2007, Highlights, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Google Scholar
OECD (2007b), Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries: Monitoring and Evaluation 2007, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Google Scholar
OECD (2008), Multifunctionality in Agriculture: Evaluating the Degree of Jointness, Policy Implications, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Google Scholar
Ostry, Sylvia (2001), ‘Dissent.Com: How NGOs Are Re-Making the WTO’, Policy Options, 22(5): 615.Google Scholar
Ruffer, Tim (2002), ‘Development Box Proposals and Their Potential Effect on Developing Countries’, Oxford Policy Management, April 2002.Google Scholar
Schnepf, Randy and Womach, Jasper W. (2006), ‘Potential Challenges to US Farm Subsidies in the WTO: A Brief Overview’, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, CRS Report for Congress, 25 October 2006.Google Scholar
South Centre (2008), ‘The Wto's July 2008 Mini-Ministerial: Agriculture, NAMA, Process Issues and the Road Ahead’, South Centre, Analytical Note SC/TDP/AN/MA/AG, October 2008.Google Scholar
UNCTAD (2003), Making Global Trade Work for People, London: Earthscan Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
Valdés, Alberto and Foster, William (2005), ‘The New SSM: A Price Floor Mechanism for Developing Countries’, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, Information Note No. 7, April 2005.Google Scholar
Wolfe, Robert (2004), ‘Informal Political Engagement in the WTO: Are Mini-Ministerials a Good Idea?’, in Ciuriak, Dan and Curtis, John M. (eds.), Trade Policy Research, 2004, Ottawa: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade International Trade, pp. 2790.Google Scholar
Wolfe, Robert (2007), ‘Can the Trading System Be Governed? Institutional Implications of the WTO's Suspended Animation’, Centre for International Governance Innovation Working Paper No. 30, September 2007.Google Scholar
Wolfe, Robert (2008), ‘Canada's Adventures in Clubland: Trade Clubs and Political Influence’, in Daudelin, Jean and Schwanen, Daniel (eds.), Canada among Nations 2007: Room for Manoeuvre, Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, pp. 181197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wolfe, Robert (2009), ‘Sprinting During a Marathon: Why the WTO Ministerial Failed in July 2008’, Groupe d'Economie Mondiale, Sciences Po, Working Paper April 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wolfe, Robert and Collins-Williams, Terry (2008), ‘The WTO's Cloudy Windows: Transparency and Notification as Policy Tools’, unpublished ms, September 2008.Google Scholar
WTO (1999a), ‘Preparations for the 1999 Ministerial Conference Ministerial Text: Revised Draft’, World Trade Organization, JOB(99)/5868/Rev.1, 19 October 1999.Google Scholar
WTO (1999b), ‘Preparations for the 1999 Ministerial Conference, Agriculture: Proposal under Paragraphs 9(a)(I) and 9(a)(Ii) of the Geneva Ministerial Declaration – Communication from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Honduras, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Zimbabwe’, World Trade Organization, Council, General, WT/GC/W/374, 15 October 1999.Google Scholar
WTO (2000), ‘Agreement on Agriculture: Special and Differential Treatment and a Development Box – Proposal to the June 2000 Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture by Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Pakistan, Haiti, Nicaragua, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, and El Salvador’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, G/AG/NG/W/13, 23 June 2000.Google Scholar
WTO (2001), ‘Ministerial Declaration’, World Trade Organization, Ministerial Conference, Fourth Session, Doha, 9–14 November 2001, WT/MIN(01)/DEC/W/1, 14 November 2001.Google Scholar
WTO (2002), ‘Negotiations on Agriculture: Overview’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, TN/AG/6, 18 December 2002.Google Scholar
WTO (2003a), ‘Agriculture – Framework Proposal: Joint Proposal by Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, China, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, South Africa and Thailand’, World Trade Organization, JOB(03)/162, 20 August 2003.Google Scholar
WTO (2003b), ‘EC–US Joint Text: Agriculture’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, JOB(03)/157, 13 August 2003.Google Scholar
WTO (2003c), ‘Negotiations on Agriculture: First Draft of Modalities for the Further Commitments’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, TN/AG/W/1/Rev.1, 18 March 2003.Google Scholar
WTO (2004a), ‘Doha Work Programme: Decision Adopted by the General Council on 1 August 2004’, World Trade Organization, WT/L/579, 2 August 2004.Google Scholar
WTO (2004b), ‘Special Agricultural Safeguard: Background Paper by the Secretariat’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, TN/AG/S/12, 20 December 2004.Google Scholar
WTO (2004c), ‘WTO Agriculture Negotations: The Issues, and Where We Are Now’, World Trade Organization, Information and Media Relations Division, updated 1 March 2004.Google Scholar
WTO (2005a), ‘Agriculture Negotiations – Status Report: Key Issues to Be Addressed by 31 July 2005, Assessment by the Chairman’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture Special Session, JOB(05)/126, 27 June 2005.Google Scholar
WTO (2005b), ‘Doha Work Programme’, World Trade Organization, Ministerial Conference, Sixth Session Hong Kong, 13–18 December 2005, WT/MIN(05)/W/3/Rev.2, 18 December 2005.Google Scholar
WTO (2005c), ‘G33 Proposal on Special Safeguard Measures–Communication from G33’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, JOB(05)/92, 3 June 2005.Google Scholar
WTO (2005d), ‘G-33 Proposal on Article 5 … Special Safeguard Provisions Mechanism for Developing Countries’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, JOB(05)/263, 27 October 2005.Google Scholar
WTO (2006a), ‘Draft Possible Modalities on Agriculture’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, JOB(06)/199, 22 June 2006.Google Scholar
WTO (2006b), ‘G-33 Proposal on Article 5 … Special Safeguard Provisions Mechanism for Developing Countries’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, JOB(06)/64, 23 March 2006.Google Scholar
WTO (2006c), ‘Joint Communication from the G-33, African Group, ACP, and LDCs on Special Products and the Special Safeguard Mechanism’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, TN/AG/GEN/17, 11 May 2006.Google Scholar
WTO (2006d), ‘Revised Consolidated Reference Paper on Possible Modalities on Market Access – SSM: Some Unanswered Technical Issues [Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay]’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, JOB(06)/197/Rev.1, 21 June 2006.Google Scholar
WTO (2006e), ‘United States Communication on Special Agricultural Safeguard (SSG) and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) – Article 5 of the Agreement on Agriculture’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, JOB(06)/120, 24 April 2006.Google Scholar
WTO (2006f), World Trade Report 2006: Subsidies, Trade and the WTO, Geneva: World Trade Organization).Google Scholar
WTO (2007a), ‘Communication from the Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture’, Special Session, Second Instalment', World Trade Organization, 25 May 2007.Google Scholar
WTO (2007b), ‘Draft Modalities for Agriculture’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, note by the Chairman, JOB(07)/128, 17 July 2007.Google Scholar
WTO (2007c), ‘G-33 Ministerial Communiqué, Jakarta, 21 March 2007: Communication from Indonesia’, World Trade Organization, WT/L/682, 29 March 2007.Google Scholar
WTO (2008a), ‘An Unofficial Guide to Agricultural Safeguards’, World Trade Organization, http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/agric_e/guide_agric_safeg_e.htm, 5 August 2008.Google Scholar
WTO (2008b), ‘Report to the Trade Negotiations Committee by the Chairman of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, Ambassador Crawford Falconer’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, JOB(08)/95, 11 August 2008.Google Scholar
WTO (2008c), ‘Revised Draft Modalities for Agriculture’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, TN/AG/W/4/Rev.1, 8 February 2008.Google Scholar
WTO (2008d), ‘Revised Draft Modalities for Agriculture’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, TN/AG/W/4/Rev.2, 19 May 2008.Google Scholar
WTO (2008e), ‘Revised Draft Modalities for Agriculture’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, TN/AG/W/4/Rev.3, 10 July 2008.Google Scholar
WTO (2008f), ‘Revised Draft Modalities for Agriculture: Special Safeguard Mechanism’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, TN/AG/W/7, 6 December 2008.Google Scholar
WTO (2008g), ‘WTO: Doha Negotiations on Agriculture – Communication from Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay (Apu)’, World Trade Organization, Committee on Agriculture, Special Session, JOB(08)/6, 20 February 2008.Google Scholar