South Africa's Official Position and Role
Presentation to Conference in Pretoria, 7-8 August, 2001, organised by the SA Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD) and Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) onThe Multilateral Trading System and the Road to Doha: Challenges for South Africa.
As with its many other inherited international commitments, the new democratic government in South Africa in 1994 took on a range of undertakings within the Uruguay Round Agreements (URAs) and the newly formed World Trade Organisation. In this latter respect, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was faced with the immediate task of creating an effective new team in Geneva as well as making internal changes in its trade personnel on all fronts. However, even as the gradually reconstituted SA mission to the WTO tried to get to grips with the enormous complexities of the existing agreements and multiplicity of ongoing processes in the WTO, the ground was shifting under their feet. The major powers dominating the institution were repeatedly introducing new agreements and raising ever more new issues of interest to their own economies and corporations for inclusion in the WTO. And in order to promote these, the major powers, led above all by the EU, began to build up pressures, particularly from 1998, for a new multi-sectoral orcomprehensive round of WTO negotiations. Ambitiously dubbed the Millennium Round, this was planned to be launched at the Third Ministerial Conference (3MC) of the WTO scheduled for Seattle in the USA, 29 November-3 December 1999.
1. South Africa preparing for the Third WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle
The new South African team in Geneva, as with many other developing country delegations, struggled to cope with the day-to- day demands in the WTO as well as the extremely complex (pre)negotiations towards the framing of a consensus text to guide the Third Ministerial meeting agenda. Furthermore, although at this stage supporting the general position of the majority developing countries against the launch of a new round, the South African team was also preparing what they considered necessary fall back positions should resistance to a new round fail. This sounds sensible enough. However, the relatively inexperienced new negotiators on the ground - and even their, only marginally less inexperienced, strategic mentors back in Pretoria do not seem to have been sufficiently cognisant of the fact that, once articulated, such potential fall-back negotiating positions are rapidly transformed into actual front line positions. As soon as they are perceived by acutely attentive and highly experienced negotiating opponents, such compromise fall back positions are skillfully drawn into the current (pre)negotiating processes rather than some hypothetical later/alternative stages.
However, independently of what negotiating opponents might do, it is extremely difficult for any negotiators to keep a number of alternative balls in the air at the same time. Unless carefully planned, monitored and controlled, there is an objective tendency for alternative positions, once formulated, to follow an ineluctable logic or inner dynamic. They begin to require increasing time and efforts, and gradually become an intrinsic part of the negotiating team's current thinking and positioning. This is a very complex and insidious process, and it requires enormous intellectual grasp and tactical skill - and large, well-balanced teams of experienced negotiators - to be able to sustain a number of simultaneous, but separate and distinct, negotiation positions.
In the event, South Africa's multilateral trade officials, whether in Geneva or Pretoria, seem to have shifted quite rapidly from a multi- layered strategy towards a focus preparing for a multi-sectoral new round. This was also because - independently of the prior intentions and strenuous efforts of the trade negotiators - the policy framework within which the key South African economic ministries were functioning had, by this time, shifted towards the globally dominant neo-liberal paradigm, expressed internally in the Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) programme. In its external trade and investment policies, South Africa was adopting positions accommodating to the unavoidable realities of globalisation, according to DTI analysts. In the meantime, also, the new-and-old Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, with many subscribing to the realist paradigm of international relations, were juggling with the government's formal commitments on Africa, and at the same time (or in so doing) defending national interest concerns; while, once again,realistically recognising and accommodating to the realities of the global system.
By the time the DTI decided to hold a public consultative conference on the WTO 3MC in Midrand, Gauteng, 24-25 August 1999, this meeting was explicitly entitled Consultative Conference in Preparation for the WTO Seattle Ministerial and the Upcoming Round of Multilateral Negotiations. South Africa's trade strategists had already decided realistically that a new round was going to take place, and were preparing themselves accordingly. This was despite the continued opposition to the new issues and the new round by most developing countries - of which the SA negotiators were certainly aware. This was also, not surprisingly, impervious to the growing international civil society campaign declaring No New Round! Turn Around! of which DTI technocrats may well have been unaware, at least until that point
What was also evident in that consultative conference, in August 1999, was that the trade experts in the DTI were not developing effective means and arguments to challenge the new issues being pushed bythe majors in pursuit of their own interests. In fact, many of the trade officials, old and new, were internalising their own tactical compromise arguments and actively promoting some of these new issues. However, the piecemeal adoption by South African strategists of some of these controversial and contentious new issues reflected not merely tactical inadequacies or ideological pre-dispositions in the technical officials, but calculated national interest decisions by DTI and other national strategists. This was particularly clear, on the one hand, in the officials' arguments against the acceptance of government procurement as a new issue in the WTO. This was because the possibility of having to give national treatment to global corporations in SA government tendering at national, provincial and local levels would impinge directly on governmental commitment to use the award of public tenders as one of the instruments to promote small and medium domestic enterprises and, above all, serve the hitherto disadvantaged black population and women in particular. On the other hand, in response to the tendentious demand by the governments of the richest industrialised countries that full and unfettered corporate investment rights be located in the WTO, DTI officials stated with ingenuous frankness that South Africa was not opposed a priori to this new issue because this country is also a foreign investor in other countries.
2. South Africa's engagement with Africa on the WTO
At the same time, in keeping with its own official prioritisation of its relations with the rest of Africa and especially Southern Africa, Pretoria was engaging with them on and in the WTO. In this context, South Africa and the other members of SADC prepared a joint position for the First Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Singapore at the end of 1996. Already at that date, the SADC countries were calling for the first ministerial meeting to focus on the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements [in order to] take stock [and] find out if the expectations we had in Marrakesh on the prospects of economic growth and sustainable development, and of better international relations that the UR had promised has, by any degree, been achieved.
This position was sustained in the joint African submission made to the Second WTO Ministerial in Geneva, in May 1998, with the added observation that, without a full review of the existing URAs, there could not be any launch of a major new round. Furthermore, the African position stated that negotiations on new issues are premature as the Built-in-Agenda [of negotiations and reviews carried over from the Uruguay Round] is already overburdened. These general strategic positions and other more detailed proactive proposals on a wide range of issues and problems were sustained and enlarged upon in many subsequent African inter-governmental meetings and other processes. These included important African non-governmental initiatives for capacity building of African trade officials, in conjunction with UN agencies, most notably through the Southern and East African Trade Information and Negotiations Initiative (SEATINI), in 1998 and 1999 in Harare and Kampala respectively.
However, as the campaign towards a new round built up, African governments were under ever-increasing pressures, within the WTO processes and more generally, from their governmental aid and trade partners in the North, and institutional financial under- writers. The OAU Secretariat in conjunction with the neo-liberal- inclined UN Economic Commission for Africa, and with support from the IMF and World Bank and the WTO itself, all did their best in various meetings, in Addis Ababa and elsewhere, to encourage Africa towards more accommodating positions. South Africa itself hosted two such meetings for the LDCs and African trade officials, in Sun City and Pretoria respectively, during June and July 1999.
By the time the African Ministers of Trade gathered in Algiers in September 1999, to agree their joint negotiating position for the 3MC, they produced a somewhat cautious and accommodating document with many weaknesses and insufficiencies noted at the time. But the Algiers position paper is also proactive and even innovative on the key development issues for Africa. These included proposals for the review of various existing WTO agreements prejudicial to African development needs, an emphasis on the maintenance and extension of the Special and Differential Terms (SDTs) for developing countries in WTO agreements, various points relating to market access and tariff barriers in the most developed countries, and a call for a review to make the WTO terms for regional trade agreements (RTAs) more supportive to African regional integration programmes. There was, however, a major weakness in the Algiers position. It notes the implementation issues in the sense of the unfulfilled undertakings and commitments made by the developed countries towards developing countries during the UR and in the Marrakesh Treaty and Ministerial Declarations that concluded the Round and set up the WTO. However, the main focus of the African position is on the implementation difficulties of African countries themselves, in complying with WTO requirements and fulfilling their obligations (see 7. below). This was accompanied by repeated reiterations of their perennial appeals for more financial aid and technical assistance.
In the context of an assessment of South Africa'sinfluence on the African position, the one obvious point is that Africa maintained a non-committal position on a new round of negotiations and did not endorse South Africa's call for a new round. Unlike South Africa, the joint African position also explicitly maintained the broader developing country position for keeping the new issues. in ongoing study groups and out of WTO negotiations. South Africa, as a member of the OAU was presumably party to this joint Algiers. position.
In the simultaneous pre-negotiations going on in Geneva, itself, South Africa also seems to have participated in the meetings and strategising of the Africa Group. The African representatives to the WTO came together for some sharing of responsibilities, information and experiences in order to try to compensate for the extreme weakness and lack of personnel and resources of most of the African delegations in Geneva. They also drew together common positions on key issues, such as the well-considered Africa Group proposal for the review and reform of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement
Yet South Africa throughout this period and these processes was, in fact, preparing its own positions and pursuing its own strategy. This was now officially premised on explicit support for a new round, which South Africa defined as a broad-based round. This formulation suggested a slightly less ambitious and more independent conceptualisation than the round that the majors were aiming for. This, and other subtle changes in language by South Africa were designed, on the one hand, to accommodate the various new issues that South Africa, itself, was prepared to take on. On the other hand, this formulation was also designed both to reassure other developing country governments that South Africa was not simply acquiescing to the EU proposals for acomprehensive round; while at the same time showing the EU that SA was in principle supportive of a new round.
3. South Africa's position and role in the Third Ministerial in Seattle
Right from the start of the Seattle process, South Africa emphasised to the rest of the Africa group that, while it acknowledged the official African Algiers' position, it was committed to the broader Geneva consensus-building process - meaning to produce a text to guide the way to a new round. As with some other countries, South Africa also stated that it would operate on the principle that delegations were entitled to pursue their own national positions and strategic aims, but this had particularly marked significance in the case of South Africa because it was about to assume a controversial role and practice in the Seattle context.
As with the rest of Africa, some of the SA delegates were assigned to attend the various issue-based Working Groups, although they soon discovered that these were mere diversionary devices set up by the WTO Secretariat and the USTR (US Trade Representative) to keep most of the developing country and LDC delegations satisfactorily occupied. In the meantime, as is now well-known, the real negotiations on the Geneva Text, and other new texts springing up, were being conducted in upper floor Green Room conclaves between the Quad (the EU, US, Canada and Japan). Also included periodically were reliable countries such as Singapore and South Korea, and occasionally a few other difficult developing countries which were most resistant (such as India), as well as other states considered to be pivotal , such as South Africa on account of its perceived leadership role in Africa. The official assessment of the 3MC by the SA Mission in Geneva acknowledged, after the event, that this highly selective and exclusionary process was strongly condemned by non- participating delegates both in principle and substantively. But the South African Minister of Trade, in his plenary statement to the WTO conference, accepted this modus operandi on the grounds that the very complexity of the rules means that it is impossible to negotiate effectively in a situation where every Member State contributes all the time on every issue. Although the Minister did pose the question as to how the tension between inclusivity and effective processes could be bridged, this did not guide South Africa's own practice during the conference.
The later official South African explanation for its participation in the exclusive Green Room processes, was that it was doing so to promote a development agenda with the interests of Africa at heart. However, what many of the African delegates in the corridors noted (and some expressed with barely disguised anger) was that, while the South African Minister and his key advisers were busy in exclusive meetings to promote a development agenda, in the interests of the developing countries and Africa, South Africa neither sought endorsement for what it was doing, nor reported back formally to the Africa group during the process. South Africa not only acted separately from the rest of Africa but the chief South African negotiator in the Geneva mission concluded, after the event, that significant progress was being made behind the scenes in altering bracketed phrases in favour of developing countries and that this had been achieved through co-operation amongst a smaller group of delegations. But within that frame of mind, SA delegates were reportedly visibly uncomfortable and unsupportive when members of another African delegation, not part of the privileged invitees, managed to get into one of these selective meetings and tried to participate.
Much more significantly, the South African group were so immersed in and committed to the inner-group processes that they were taken aback when they became aware on the penultimate day that the whole Africa group had been driven to the exasperated point that they were preparing a statement of protest against the entire conduct of the meeting. South Africa belatedly intervened to moderate the wording but the process went ahead. The outcome was a highly significant if diplomatically phrased collective African statement rejecting the lack of transparency in the proceedings and the marginalisation of African countries. The statement concluded that, under those circumstances, we will not be able to join the consensus required to meet the objectives of this Ministerial Conference.
Together with similar statements by CARICOM (the Caribbean Group) and some Latin American countries, these unprecedented acts of protest combined with the other less overt forms of resistance by other developing countries. This added to the climate of contestation created by the even more critical opposition by non- governmental organisations lobbying in the corridors; with others demonstrating on the streets around the meeting. In this context there simply could not be business as usual.The usual method of the major negotiators in the WTO, in the past, had been to present or impose their consensus upon the rest of the member states as fait accomplii. However, in the charged atmosphere within and around the Seattle conference, and in large measure to pre-empt an open procedural revolt by a sizable number of delegations from the plenary floor of the conference, the 3MC was hastily closed
4. The South African delegation's response to the collapse of the 3MC
As the whole process fell apart late on the last night - amidst much amazed rejoicing by the NGOs present - the South African delegates were manifestly dismayed. Earlier, members of the South African delegation had confidently predicted, in informal conversations in the corridors, that the developing countries would not stand together and would have to accept the outcome of the consensus text in the process of being created, with South Africa's participation, for a new round. In fact, the South African negotiators were convinced that they had achieved significant progress in dealing with various of the 500+brackets reflecting contending positions on virtually every issue in the 36 page draft Geneva Text that had come out of the laborious pre-negotiations processes. Although acknowledging, later, that even getting favourable amendments into this highly contentious text did not per se guarantee broader acceptance in the COW (Conference of the Whole), the South African negotiators were, by this time so deeply embroiled in the inner deals that they had developed a sense of identification with the process and the product. Equally significantly, the South African negotiators seem to have been carried away by a sense of their importance as major players on the global stage, as a bridge between the developed and developing countries, as the SA Minister of Trade put it.
The key South African negotiators were seemingly so out of touch with what was actually going on in the conference corridors, let alone on the streets - that even after the event, they continued to believe that if only they had had another 48 hours they would have managed to pull together a satisfactory consensus document upon which the new round could be launched. This sense of frustration added to the overt anger expressed in the South African delegation that these hours had been stolen from the 3MC because of the delayed start to Conference through what the SA Minister of Trade suggested could be mismanagement or deliberate collusion by the US authorities with the demonstrators on the streets of Seattle.
In this respect it is also significant to note that - even before the full import and ultimate impact of the demonstrations was confirmed the SA Minister in his earlier plenary address to the conference, had characterised the demonstrators as having little understanding ofwhat was at stake, and declared thatwe should not allow the working of the WTO to be held hostage to this inchoate process. The further suggestion of the SA Minister was that the US government needed to educate its population on the issues. This is a questionable notion in itself, but is even more inappropriate in the light of the fact that many hundreds, if not thousands, of the demonstrators had gathered into Seattle from Canada and Europe and from all over Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific; with some dozens of organisations from Africa, including South Africa itself. And, while certainly diverse in their views and depth of understanding of the detailed issues within the WTO, they were equally certainly not an uninformed inchoate mass. The mobilisations in Seattle had emerged and converged out of long processes of intensive research and debate, in a wide range of organisations, and through actions and campaigns on many key issues, in many sectors and many countries throughout the world.
5. Post-Seattle counter-campaign to re-legitimise the WTO
South Africa's role in the inner-negotiations in Seattle may have had effects upon the Geneva text but it also reinforced the assessments of key European governments on South Africa's future role in support of the WTO. Even before leaving Seattle, the British Minister of Trade declared thatBritain is expecting SA to be a key partner in a new multilateral drive to reform the WTO. Soon after, under the headline SA could help put next WTO round on track, the Business Report quoted EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy that South Africa and the European Union could play a leading role in rekindling the move towards a new WTO round. And, in the succeeding months, taking their cues from a string of visiting European government representatives, the SA media reported, for example, that both the SA and French Ministers of Trade and Industry agreed that another WTO round was necessary sometime next year. The Business Day supported the decision of the SA and Italian Ministers of Trade and Industry toteam up to explore the possibilities of resuscitating the world trade negotiations. And so on.
Of course, the mainstream South African media, with little critical understanding and much unquestioning commitment to the neo- liberal corporate agenda and global institutions, could be expected to promote the WTO and a full new round of global liberalisations. And it is also entirely to be expected that the EU Trade Commissioner and various European government representatives, as the driving forces behind the new round, would energetically engage with the more susceptible governmental - and non- governmental - players to win active support for their strategy. EU Trade Commissioner Lamy promised LDCs improved market access to the EU market as a goodwill gesture, which the WTO Director General referred to asa down payment towards their active support for a new round. It was in this context, too, that the British trade minister, with some political sensitivity to the causes of the fiasco in Seattle, was quick off the mark with the lure of reforming the WTO; while the British Minister for International Cooperation, with insight into the language of development, was particularly active in promoting with the South African government the promise of a new round in the WTO as a development round.
Aware of the skillful methods of seasoned European politicians, it would be understandable for critical analysts and activists to see in all this yet another conspiracy to co-opt the South African government into playing a cooperative international role as a responsible player, a reliable partner; or, as EU Commissioner Lamy put it, echoing the words of the SA Minister of Trade, South Africa was an important bridge between the countries of the north and those of the south. However, even as these forces are indeed engaged in a sophisticated cooptive strategy, they have also clearly taken a lead, and been able to advance their strategy by building upon the statements and positions of key figures in the South African government itself.
In the immediate aftermath of Seattle, under the heading WTO process in still valid, the Business Report chose to highlight the statement by the Chair of the SA Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry that it would be a misreading of the WTO process to claim it had collapsed or that it would be a good thing if it had. More significantly, it was soon reported that the Minister of Trade and Industry had launched a WTO initiative. Speaking to a joint meeting of the key parliamentary committees, in January 2000, the Minister informed them that South Africa has been active since the troubled WTO meeting last month and was in touch with Brazil, India, Nigeria and Egypt; aiming to meet within a month to formulate a way to take the initiative further.
Within a month, President Mbeki was reportedly engaged in creating a club of developing countries to work as a counterweight to the established G8 leading Western countries, particularly in forums such as the WTO. The larger/middle-income developing countries identified by the trade minister could, according to the SA Minister of Foreign Affairs, form the nucleus of countries in the South that can interact on behalf of developing countries.Top foreign affairs officials were soon declaring to the media that South Africa was calling for an early resumption of WTO trade talks. But, over the next year and more, it was the SA Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that took the lead in engaging the South African government and purportedly members ofthe club - in numerous bilateral and multilateral meetings to promote this agenda. And this has been done with the active approval of the media; projecting the trade minister himself asplaying a leading role in trying to get the next round of global talks on track.
6. South Africa's overall strategic approach to the WTO since Seattle
Following on from the dramatic events in Seattle, with many significant lessons to be drawn about the character and functioning of the WTO, and highly significant broader political processes outside of the WTO, internal post-Seattle assessments by South Africa's head of mission in Geneva, acknowledged a number of important challenges facing the SA government. These included the observations that no member can effectively advance an agenda without accommodating the interests and concerns of the vast majority [amongst whom] the developing countries are an increasingly effective force; but the inherited practices and procedures in the WTO are increasingly obsolete, unclear and ad hoc, lacking in transparency and in need of fundamental reform.
Although there was also some public acknowledgment of some of the challenges and changes evident in Seattle, the full global implications were not drawn out, nor was the recognition of the need for institutional reforms prioritised. Many of the very useful observations made were simply located within and subordinate to - the South African government's pre-Seattle strategic orientation which remained fundamentally unchanged, notwithstanding the highly significant processes manifest in Seattle. Thus, the overall conclusion of the internal post-Seattle assessment was that for South Africa the objectives set out in the Cabinet Memo of November 1999 remain the basis or our engagement with the WTO. A broad-based round of multilateral negotiations remains the framework that is necessary to meet all our objectives fully. It is this determined and pre-determined pursuit of a broad-based new round of negotiations that has driven South Africa into a questionable and potentially self-defeating negotiating stance within the WTO and that also carries implications for many other countries as well. This is an objective function of the strategic choices made, independently of good intentions and aims.
South Africa's openly-declared strategic option is potentially self- defeating and certainly self-weakening both in conceptualisation and implementation. An effective negotiating team understands the crucial importance of not showing their full intentions or aims beforehand, if at all. In fact, skilled negotiators know the importance of adopting advanced bargaining positions at the outset. Prior preparation, wider information and public engagement are important in order to bring maximum pressure to bear, to influence or change the terms of the negotiations, and if possible to shift the balance of power. Above all, such pre-negotiating processes are vital to build up mutual support between as broad a number of players as possible, and create strategic or, at least, tactical alliances between them. Thus, the initial bargaining positions are not simply delaying tactics but fundamentally important negotiating strategies if used correctly.
In the WTO and in relation to the major negotiating opponents, South Africa has thrown away considerable bargaining leverage by committing itself beforehand, and publicly, to a new round. In so doing, the SA government has missed the strategic importance of adopting an initial advanced bargaining position in order to try to alter the terms of the debate and the balance of power before accepting formal negotiations, even if that is what is ultimately expected. In fact, the South African negotiators seem to have failed to grasp the fact that thepre-negotiations and positioning going on in Geneva and in capitals throughout the world, before and since Seattle, are not simply prevarications or procrastinations. They are vitally important in themselves and intrinsic to the overall process. The debates and declarations, the common platforms and alliances being built up are potentially crucial instruments to firmly set the terms, in advance, on the adoption and implementation of essential prior conditionalities to any further negotiations; on the content and character, modalities or guidelines and time-frames of current negotiations;and, only after those, if at all, on the sequence and scope of any possible future negotiations.
7. The tactical and substantive significance of insistence upon 'implementation' issues
Of all the many issues and options facing SA and other developing countries, the most significant in terms of an effective overall proactive strategy in the WTO is the set of issues and demands encapsulated under the term implementation.
7. 1 The WTO Secretariat and the most powerful member states have, through considerable efforts by the governments of developing countries, gradually been pushed to acknowledge that there are problems in the implementation of the URAs. However, they choose to see this to mean the technical difficulties and lack of resources/skills of the LDCs and other developing countries, especially in Africa, in implementing the URAs (which is a reality). To deal with the inadequacies and failures of these WTO member states to measure up to the requirements of the URAs, the majors and the WTO Secretariat offer such countries technical assistance. This means that they are to be helped to understand the legal terms of the URAs, change their national legislation and institutions accordingly, and thus fulfill their obligations. In this way, the WTO Secretariat and the majors, by seeming to respond to implementation problems, are trying to take over and limit the term and turn it to their own purposes.
7. 2 A more critical understanding of the problems of implementation, supported for example by UNCTAD, point also to the failure of the developed countries themselves, to carry out their side of the bargain struck in the final agreements signed in Marrakesh in 1994. For many African countries and LDCs, this refers to the promises of best endeavour measures to support weaker economies technically and financially, especially the Net Food-Importing Countries (NFICs), that might be prejudiced by the UR trade and agricultural liberalisation. Now, however, in order for the developed countries to be seen to be carrying out these promises, the WTO has, after many years of African and LDC complaints, produced an Integrated Framework of technical support to such countries. Funded by some of the more politically astute Northern governments, and bringing together a range of international institutions, this belated implementation exercise is actually very limited in coverage and is not addressing the real source of the problems. In fact, it is mainly designed to deflect attention from the fuller and more fundamental implementation demands upon the developed countries being posed by the developing countries, as next.
7. 3 More broadly, for developing countries, the lack of implementation of the URAs by the US and EU and other developed economies, refers also to their skillful evasion of their own legal undertakings made during the UR to liberalise their economies - in blatant contradiction with their own continued global liberalisation propaganda. Using a variety of technical and legal devices, the highly industrialised countries avoid opening up their markets to competitive exports from developing countries, particularly textiles, clothing and leather products, and even agricultural exports. In many of the highly developed economies there are obstructive tariff peaks and tariff escalations against the processed and manufactured exports from developing countries. Conversely, the most industrialised countries have still not put an end to their subsidised dumping of agricultural and other exports onto developing countries. Criticism of these failures, and demands for rectification of these abuses are a constant demand by developing countries throughout the world, including South Africa.
7. 4 There is also an even wider rectification demanded by developing countries within the WTO. This refers to the legal, moral and economic necessity to remove the many inconsistencies and imbalances that have been identified in the dozens of WTO agreements. Dealing with these anomalies is integral to the struggle around implementation because it was only as developing countries began to test out the legal texts in practice, and had the time to analyse them in fine detail, that it became evident that were some fifty glaring deficiencies, imbalances and required changes in the WTO agreements. The imbalances and inequities within and between WTO agreements largely reflect the overwhelming power and negotiating skills of the developed countries during the UR, and the lack of the same in the majority developing countries. Thus, the call for a review, repair and reform, posed by governmental and non-governmental agencies throughout the world refers both to the WTO's agreements and to its structures and functioning. In this context, the conclusion is that the WTO cannot be expanded to take on new issues and new agreements until the errors and abuses of the previous round are corrected.
7. 5 The broadest and strategically the most important arguments although still largely from NGOs and UN agencies, rather than governments - on the issue of implementation in the WTO concern the manner in which the implementation or operation of the URAs, whether by developing countries themselves or the developed countries, has impacted negatively upon most developing countries. The demand is that there have to be thorough impact assessments of the WTO's terms and agreements upon developing countries and upon shared concerns such as the global environment. Such assessments would have to be based on multi-dimensional criteria, in the nature of development audits and environmental audits, and located within gender perspectives. These, rather than merely trade liberalisation policies and practices, would be the over-riding considerations in such evaluations. In this context, too, a moratorium would have to be placed on WTO dispute cases against defaulting governments while such impact assessments are underway. The same would have to apply to any deadlines for compliance with existing agreements which are to be subject to reviews and reforms, as in 7.4 above.
Clearly, how the issues of implementation are interpreted and located in the argumentation of the developing countries have both substantive and tactical implications. The substantive implications are the implicit challenges posed to the WTO agreements (as in 7 .4) and the entire paradigm on which it is based (as in 7 .5). And these have to be firmly grounded on the development needs and perspectives of the developing countries which are vitally important in and of themselves. In addition to this fundamental strategic basis for engaging with the global system, the tactical implications within the WTO per se reside in the skillful utilisation of these implementation arguments as powerful counter-demands against the demands of the dominant countries. The acceptance and operationalisation of these implementation issues have to be made essential pre-conditions to any consideration of any further negotiations whatever their designation, scope or timing.
8. South Africa's position on the implementation issues and other strategic issues
On the question of implementation - in the sense of the necessary review of existing URAs, as in 7.4 above - South Africa's key negotiating positions acknowledge that there are indeed problems within various of the URAs that have to be addressed. South Africa seems to focus on four of these that are of most concern to its own economy. Starting with the Agreement on Anti-dumping, SA points out that this needs strengthening in a manner which reduces its scope and potential for abuse and harassment from narrowly protectionist interests. On the Agreement on Subsidies, SA seeks to broaden non- actionable subsidies to include measures aimed at achieving, in a fiscally responsible manner, legitimate development goals, including support for industrialisation, diversification, and the manufacture of high technology and value-added goods. Under the TRIPS agreement SA would seek to ensure that the benefits of intellectual property regimes are equitably shared between the innovators/owners and users/consumers of technology [and also] ensure, amongst other things, the protection of bio-diversity, food security and access to essential drugs.And on the URAs relating to health and safety standards developing countries require considerable technical, human and financial support to upgrade their production for export.
These are all certainly justifiable demands, as far as they go. However, the fundamental problem is that the overall South African strategy is to try to promote these needs together with the mandated negotiations and reviews in the Built-in-Agenda carried over from the Uruguay Round, as well as various other new issues, and other matters. These, in turn, are all to be located within a broad-based and balanced negotiations agenda that accommodates the concerns and interests of all WTO members [and] which would permit trade-offs among issues. The first flaw in this thinking is that the anticipated trade-offs would be between essential corrections to lacunae, inconsistencies and inequities in existing agreements - originally produced through extremely imbalanced negotiation processes - in exchange for accepting yet more agreements biased towards the interests of those countries and corporations that already benefit most from the existing agreements. These respective sets of demands - on existing agreements and new proposed issues/agreements - are of a qualitatively different order. Corrections to existing injustices cannot be traded off against further demands that may introduce yet more injustices. South Africa's broad-based and balanced agenda cannot be balanced, when the potential trade-offs are inherently imbalanced. The one set of proposals might provide some overdue relief within the status quo; but the new proposals would reinforce further structural imbalances in the global economy.
To accept any parity between these respective demands is to surrender an important principle of justice and equity. To publicly promote a broad-based round with trade-offs is to give away important strategic ground at the very outset. The fundamental strategic preconditions are obvious:
The anticipated trade-offs would inevitably weigh against the developing countries. Without such significant political changes, the vast disparities of human and material resources and negotiating skills, and the enormous covert external economic and political leverage through both penalties and persuasions - that the developed countries can exert over most of the developing countries, would inevitably produce very uneven trade-offs.
South African strategists seem to feel that they can resist the political pressures and financial persuasions that undermine weaker countries, and that SA would cope with such technically and politically complex multi-directional negotiations. These judgements may or may not be correct; and if they are not correct they carry serious risks for South Africa, itself. But it is even more incorrect, on the basis of such self-confident - and self-centered - assumptions, for SA to speak and act in ways that put other countries at great risk. What is more, South Africa is failing to effectively counter the disadvantages of such countries within the WTO, even where it could. For example, South Africa merely includes reforms to the internal functioning of the WTO within the accumulation of issues in the broad negotiations basket. Fundamental reforms to the WTO's modus operandi cannot simply be lumped in with the rest. Institutional reforms are of a qualitatively different character, and should be an essential precondition to any further WTO negotiations. This is both on the grounds of political principle and in order to ensure a more conducive (or less prejudicial) environment to allow full participation for all in the WTO. Such reforms could provide some correction to the unequal access to information and inputs to discussions between the strong and weak members of the WTO, and contribute towards altering the balance of power therein. This makes it all the more questionable for the SA government to have failed, within and after Seattle, to use its political/moral weight and democratic kudos to actively prioritise institutional reforms as an essential pre-condition to any other discussions in or on the WTO
9. The implications of South Africa's WTO positions upon Africa in general
Whatever South African officials' own assessments of this country's skills and capacities, it is extremely questionable for South Africa to be pursuing abroad-based agenda when the other African countries, and the LDCs in general, have been stating for years that they could not cope with and do not want a new and complex multi-dimensional round. Ever since the Singapore Ministerial in 1996 (see 2. above), the Africa Group had been demanding that priority attention be given to the implementation issues and Africa's most pressing problems and development concerns. But South Africa has gradually, and then overtly, diverged from the rest of Africa and begun to play an increasingly problematic role in Africa and internationally.
In one telling illustration, in the first meeting of the African Group in Geneva immediately after Seattle, the officials agreed to recommend to their Heads of Delegations that the immediate focus should be on the mandated negotiations [on agriculture and services], the Built-in-Agenda of reviews carried over from the UR, and on securing extensions of the expired deadlines in WTO agreements. They also concluded thatefforts to reconvene the Ministerial Round at any cost would be detrimental to the multilateral system as a whole. It can be confidently concluded from the wording in the minutes that the (unidentified) dissenting voice arguing that it would be useful to initiate urgent preparatory work for an immediate launch of a new Round of trade negotiations, which would be balanced and reflect the interests of all Members, was in fact South Africa.
Similarly, in one of the current and ongoing informal meetings of the WTO General Council in Geneva in June this year , spokespersons of the Africa group were reported to have been insisting that the WTO agenda is already full and the WTO needs progress on mandated negotiations and reviews which are progressing slowly. However, the head of the SA mission in Geneva argues, to the contrary, thatprogress towards reconvening the Ministerial conference and launching new negotiations [should] not be held hostage in the mandated negotiations. In this view, it is not advisable to pursue the mandated negotiations at this stage because few if any substantial changes can be envisaged outside of a broad round of negotiations. Not only is this a questionable political judgement (see 12. below) but, as with many other positions and actions of the South African government, it is actively countering African arguments and the potential impact of some carefully negotiated joint African positions on the mandated negotiations and reviews within the Built-in-Agenda.
The frequent justification by South African officials for following their own path is that the African countries themselves are, anyway, not firmly united on these issues or in the WTO generally, as elsewhere. Many African governments are, indeed, profoundly dependent economically and submissive politically to Northern governments and corporations and to the international finance institutions, and they are very susceptible to external divide and rule tactics. Yet Africa managed to forge and maintain a highly effective unity in Seattle, despite the doubts and fears of some of the weaker more compliant countries. In fact, as is well established in many other spheres, when the weak stand together they are immeasurably strengthened. Even the most vulnerable amongst them are protected under the cover of the collective position. Above all, the weight of the united whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The vital question to be posed is whether SA is countering or contributing to Africa's potential united strength or its weaknesses; whether SA has correctly understood and accepted Africa's needs? With regard to the WTO there are, in fact, other African delegations in Geneva that have more experience in international institutions than the new, relatively inexperienced South Africans, and in some cases greater knowledge and grasp of the issues. South Africa, however, has chosen not to join with countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Egypt in the strong Like-Minded Group (LMG) of developing countries in the WTO. This group includes, amongst others, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica in the Caribbean, and India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia in Asia.
To the contrary, the only WTO sub-grouping that SA officially participates in is the Cairns Group which is dominated by Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Canada and the like. This alliance South Africa justifies on account of their common interests as agricultural exporting countries. That may well be so, but South Africa cannot premise its strategic global alliances upon one set of economic interests/aims within this country. Nor, indeed, should South Africa only focus its attentions upon similar middle-income industrialising developing countries, as it is apparently doing. South Africa also has broader, multi-dimensional and fundamental interests in common with the rest of Africa. Supporting and strengthening African positions are not about magnanimous solidarity or the like, but essential to development and stability within Africa and South Africa - which the overall political orientation of this country formally recognises. These fundamental strategic necessities should provide the basis and framework for South Africa's strategies and alliances in the WTO. Pretoria could and should adopt, or help to strengthen a front line position in common with the rest of Africa in the WTO - whatever other alliances South Africa'sown specific domestic interests and internal needs may require. These continental and national positions are not mutually exclusive. But the immediate tactical and strategic demands together with the rest of Africa must be given precedence, and can be the first line of defense without prejudicing or contradicting the further or later specifically national strategic aims.
The unfortunate reality is that South Africa, in determined pursuit of its ill-conceived WTO agenda, is acting in ways that aggravate and even take advantage of the weaknesses and potential divisions in Africa. And South Africa is seen in many African countries to be doing so in direct as well as indirect collaboration with the WTO and the major powers - as in the role it played in the meeting for African trade ministers set up in Libreville, Gabon, in November 2000, by the WTO Secretariat, the European Trade Commissioner and the US Trade Representative (USTR). Although presented as only acapacity-building meeting, it was patently obvious, right from the start, that the real intention was to get this large group of WTO members to endorse the holding of a new round of negotiations. It is to the credit of the stronger African representatives present that they managed to hold the majority of the African ministers together to resist this strategy although largely on the defensive procedural grounds that this was not a decision-making meeting. This stand was maintained despite the skillful manipulation of the proceedings by the WTO, EC and USTR, with the support of the host government, and much covert manouevering and backstage arm twistingIt was in this context and at the last moment that the SA Minister of Trade intervened to introduce subtle modifications into the wording of the procedural closing statement or communique (not official declaration) in such a way that it might be used to give the impression that there had, in fact, been African ministerial endorsement of a broad-based process of negotiations in the WTO.
Since then, South Africa'sactions on the continent with regard to the WTO seem to be focusing more on bilateral and regional interventions to try to bring over as many as possible of the more accessible African countries to support South Africa'sposition. This includes repeated meetings with the SADC ministers of trade where South Africa can use its political influence and economic and financial leverage with the Southern African countries, particularly the weaker states, which are so tightly inter-linked with and dependent upon the SA economy. Pretoria also somewhat opportunistically resorted to trying to intervene in a late-July meeting of the COMESA grouping to gain endorsement for its approach. South Africa even tried to use its influence, similarly, within the global LDC meeting in Zanzibar in mid-July 2001. Despite attempts by South African spokespersons to put a positive spin on the positions taken by these country groupings, these seem to be proving to be rather more difficult for SA to win over than might have been expected.
This tactical return by South Africa to engaging with Africa and the LDCs is, very probably, now being energetically pursued because the SA government's earlier much-publicised strategy to gain public support from the larger/stronger middle income developing countries for Pretoria's explicit promotion of a multi-dimensional round does not appear to have had the desired effects.
10. The influence of SA's positions on those of other developing countries
Taking its lead from the SA Minister of Trade, the influential Financial Mail in Johannesburg, as recently as 13th July, declares in headlines that SA Leads the Charge for Developing Nations in the WTO. This statement does not seem to be correct - politically or technically, in general or on detail.
The countries most repeatedly identified by South Africa as being central to its South strategy in the WTO are Brazil, India, and China and, in Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. China, of course, is not yet a member of the WTO and may have to support a new round as yet another of the conditions being imposed upon it for admission to the world body. Brazil is probably closest to South Africa in its positions within the WTO, in large measure because of the similarity of their economic interests and needs vis-à-vis the global economy. But the manageable agenda that Brazil is prepared to support in the WTO seems to exclude new issues that South Africa is prepared to take on board. India, however, has maintained its independent approach, despite being targeted from the start by the SA Minister of Trade, together with his UK counterpart and the WTO Director General. India's argument continues to be that the mandated negotiations and reviews already constitute a big enough agenda for WTO negotiations, and that it is a fallacy to argue that only with a comprehensive new round with many subjects could there be a balanced result. It is also interesting to note that while South Africa defends the WTO as an essential rules-based system for the world, the chief of the Indian delegation in Geneva repeatedly, and rightly, criticises the WTO for being a power-based system.
Other active and articulate developing countries in the WTO, such as Pakistan and Indonesia, insist on implementation issues being resolved before the 4th Ministerial Conference at Doha in Qatar. At a recent LMG meeting, the Dominican Republic declared that implementation issues are fundamental and their solution should not be linked in any way to a new round [but] need to be addressed on their merits. What is more, according to the LMG,even progress on implementation issues does not represent an automaticyes to a new round. When the Chair of the WTO General Council attempted, on 13th July, to submit the preamble to a preliminary text for the Draft Ministerial Declaration for the 4MC in Doha, several developing countries indicated that they did not want to discuss the text any further until the premise that there will be a new round is removed and, furthermore, until there is progress on implementation issues. In an even more recent Special Session of the General Council on Implementation Issues, on 20th July, there was a clear distinction between the developing country view that implementation is the make or break issue before Doha, and the developed country resistance to implementation issues before full negotiations, because that might not require reciprocal actions by developing countries benefiting from implementation concessions.
In addition to the implementation issues, the above and many other active developing countries, such as the Philippines and Jamaica (the latter invariably a well-informed and well-prepared member of the WTO and often speaking on behalf of the CARICOM Group ), repeatedly state their priorities to be achieving progress on the current mandated negotiations and reviews. There is, above all, a common opposition amongst developing countries against the inclusion of the new issues begin pushed by the highly industrialised countries. Hong-Kong-China, hardly a radical member of the WTO, goes so far as to state in the WTO General Council meeting that an overly ambitious agenda is a recipe for no round at all [because] many developing Members are not yet ready to take on some of the new commitments beyond their means.
The most common position adopted by developing countries across Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific is on the vital importance of unity and cooperation amongst themselves to counter the power and pressures of the more developed countries. South Africa, however, is notable by its invariable absence from such informal discussions and positions, and conspicuous rather for trying to build its own selective version of developing country cooperation, and agreement around its own preconceived agenda.
11. South Africa and key African countries in the WTO
South Africa does not identify active and effective African countries in the WTO, such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, as significant objectives for its plans, but rather Nigeria which may be a significant SA ally elsewhere but has not, hitherto, been particularly noted for its role in the WTO. It is encouraging , however, to note that more recently Nigeria is reportedly joining in more actively with the Africa Group in Geneva. But the other country in Africa that is targeted by South Africa, namely Egypt, is one of the most experienced, active and effective of the African countries, and is the most significant in Africa with respect to South Africa's planned WTO club.Taking their cue from the government, the media in South Africa report approvingly on the agreement between Egypt and South Africa on the goals for the forthcoming talks and their common strategy to build support for it amongst African and other developing countries.
Although the Egypt-SA statement of February 2001 is largely based on South Africa's own key negotiation document, a close comparative analysis between South Africa's original positions and the compromise joint positions reached with Egypt is revealing. This shows that Egypt has adopted much of the preamble and general wording of SA's document but it has, in turn, effected some significant alterations therein. Some changes create an unfortunate weakening of some of the better SA positions with respect to its own industrialisation needs, but other modifications directly reject South Africa's willingness to place new issues on the negotiating table, particularly on competition policy and government procurement. The other significant correction to South Africa's own earlier omission is an insistence that the internal governance of the WTO must be addressed to guarantee the ownership of the WTO by the developing countries; although the joint statement seems prepared to have these issues of process considered in parallel to negotiations of substance. A new paragraph is also inserted under Implementation Issues to the effect that(we) have a range of concerns under existing WTO agreements that we seek to address [some of which] may be addressed through clarification of existing provisions, others may require re-negotiation; although without specifying where/when these re-negotiations would take place, and whether that would mean before or within a broad-based agenda. However, a new clause was inserted to the effect that an over-ambitious or open-ended agenda for the new Round would constitute, in our opinion, a recipe for an impasse.
In the final analysis, however, it is not merely the wording of such joint statements that is most significant (since they always contain diplomatic formulations, inconsistencies and deliberate ambiguities) so much as the subsequent actions of the respective parties. In this case, Egypt did not proceed to act in concert with South Africa in the WTO. In fact, Cairo was reported to have been relieved when SA's plan to hold a meeting there of potential supporters had to be abandoned for lack of response from invited WTO member states. And, in other very recent statements in Geneva, Egypt is reported to be supporting the position that we must not succumb to pressures to put implementation issues away or to put them in the wider context of a new round [whereas] decisions on issues of implementation have to be taken before the next ministerial in Qatar. Furthermore, as with the other developing countries, Egypt pledges itself to overcoming attempts to divide developing countries; although it is also unfortunate to note that there are now divergences within the Egyptian government on the WTO
The public positions and (what are also undoubtedly) tactical postures by the developing countries in Geneva are very diverse and difficult to decode with absolute certainty even for those directly involved. It is significant, however, that when the WTO went into recess, at the end of July, the carefully considered sobering assessment by the Chair of the General Council was that there were still wide differences between all the members; with doubts or fears for the Doha meeting and the very future of the WTO being expressed even by the WTO Director General. At this stage, however, the tactical and strategic positions expressed by other developing country governments pose important questions about the impact - and the exaggerated claims - of the South African government; such as that of the Director General of the Department of Trade and Industry, that South Africa has developed a leading role and is seen to articulate the best interests of the developing countries and those in the southern hemisphere.The simultaneous responses to this statement are whether South Africa is, in fact, playing a leading role or, indeed, articulating the best interests of the other developing countries.
The indications are that the players who choose to see SA articulating these best interests are the WTO Secretariat, the European Commission, and South Africa itself. The underlying motivations for this claim, both on the side of the DTI, and the WTO and its power-brokers, is for South Africa to be a principal at the next round. It is such statements by highly-placed SA spokespersons that reinforce the conviction in Africa and the South that this country's overall strategy and tactics in the WTO are basically designed to pursue its own interests and advance its own global ambitions. And, in order to do so, Pretoria is seen to be trying to impress the EU and the US by being a sensible and reliable player and accommodating to their agenda(s) in the WTO. Whether this is a deliberate tactical decision by the South African government or the objective effect of its own misjudgements has to be subject to some critical analysis.
12 South Africa's position on, and with, the EU and the US in the WTO
European governments, separately and together, are conducting their own campaign in relation to Pretoria for the promotion of a new round of negotiations, amongst other matters. The SA government is accepting at face value many of the proposals from Europe, such as the repackaging of the next round as a development round. Even if the developing countries agreed to enter into a new round on this basis, there is absolutely no guarantee that the (as yet ill-defined) development aims would be achieved through the very difficult multiple negotiations. Such promises to respond to the problems of developing countries were precisely how the majors clinched the final deal in the Uruguay Round, but even those minimal promises of compensatory assistance have still not been fulfilled. The added irony is that South Africa's latest formulation to persuade African countries to accept a new round is to assure them that it will be afundamental development round.
But SA is also incorporating into its own argumentation for the WTO negotiations, much of the broader logic of the European strategic approach. This is most evident in South Africa's conviction that a broad-based and balanced agenda allowing for trade-offs is essential in order for the EU to make concessions to the developing world. South Africa apparently accepts the EU's argument that it, too, has to make gains (mainly on the new issues) in order to compensate for the concessions that the EU might agree to make to the developing countries demands in the negotiations. There are many problems with South Africa's acceptance of what is, so manifestly, anadvanced bargaining strategy by the EU.
The first problem is that what the EU suggests might be concessions to the developing world would - if at all - mainly be on their justifiable claims for redress to existing wrongs (as discussed in 7. above). It is important to reiterate that these countries should not have to make compensatory concessions to the EU for rectification to existing injustices, largely created in the first place by the EU and the US through the UR. These are such clear issues of equity - and so directly linked to the necessity for greater political and economic equilibrium in the WTO and the world - that SA should be lining up with and strengthening global alliances of governmental - and non-governmental - forces to project and operationalise these principles, rather than offering, a priori, to trade them off.
The second problem is that others of the concessions that the EU claims it might be prepared to make in the negotiations are, in fact, its own existing obligations within the WTO. This applies especially to the ending of the EU's agricultural subsidies and the liberalisation of agricultural trade. The irony is that it will have to face up to this, anyway, when the peace clause in the Agreement on Agriculture comes to an end in 2003. This is precisely why the EU is anxious to use this bargaining chip while it still can, and this entails getting a new round underway as soon as possible. Rather than looking ahead to what the EU (and the US in other spheres see below) is going to have to concede, anyway, and employing that in its counter strategies, South Africa has apparently swallowed the EU line.
Thirdly, there are important forces building up in the EU financial and industrial, political and social that are convinced that the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is an unsustainable financial burden that has to go, (particularly before a number of heavily agricultural countries in Eastern Europe join the EU). For the anti-CAP critics and sceptics, being seen to have to make concessions on the EU's CAP in the next round, is also a useful ploy to counter agricultural vested interests within Europe. These are not, by any means, straightforward processes for the Europeans themselves. However, these arguments between opponents and supporters of CAP, and related policies, are the Europeans' own internal problems and should be sorted out between them, without the rest of the world having to pay the price with trade-offs.
The discernible changes in public opinion in Europe against industrialised agriculture and all the economic and social distortions and scientific, health, environmental, and other abuses and dangers that go with it could, conversely, be made to work to the advantage of the developing world. The growing awakening amongst Europeans to the negative effects and broader implications of these particular aspects of the economic model being imposed in agriculture and, with variations, in all economic sectors on the whole of Europe could be utilised strategically by SA governmental and non-governmental forces if they acted together. Unfortunately, Pretoria is so committed to its current cautious and accommodating strategy that it is ignoring the important gains that could be made from this potential force in order to change the global balance of power, ideologically, politically and economically.
Similar shifts in public opinion are also evident in the United States. What applies to the EU's possible concessions. within the WTO - many of which are in fact existing commitments and obligations - applies also to the US, particularly in having to open its markets to textiles, clothing, leather goods etc. In the meantime, Washington is, as always, positioning itself to defend and promote US interests and get a quid pro quo for what it is going to have to face up to anyway. In a major address to the WTO General Council, on 25 June 2001, the US representative listed the issues that it would want to see included in a balanced agenda which would meet all our needs. At the same time the US aims to maximise its leverage over other countries' policies through the WTO. Amongst other things, the US states unambiguously that a new round is also important to get developing countries in Asia and Latin America to lock in recent economic reforms ; meaning of course the extensive liberalisation and privatisation imposed by the IMF as a condition for financial bale-outs in the 1997-1998 Asian crisis
The assessment of the roles of the US and the EU in the 3MC, made by the SA WTO Mission after Seattle was that the US was neither willing nor able to play its traditional leadership role and that the lack of a common Quad position is central to understanding the Seattle failure. These observations beg the question whether either of those roles would have been advantageous to and welcomed by the rest of the world. What is now clear, however, is that in order to avoid another Seattle, and as preparations for the Fourth Ministerial in Qatar hot up, the two majors are beginning to work out common strategic positions, although differences still remain. There is, above all, still a gulf between the US and the EU on the contentious agricultural negotiations. However, united on the strategic advantages of a new round for their own respective agendas, the US and the EU are preparing a coordinated campaign of intensive and continuous involvement of the capitals of developing country WTO member states, in order to promote the broad US-EU common agenda. This is obviously intended to evade the formal processes in Geneva, where there is detailed knowledge of the issues and arguments, constant exchanges of information, collective analyses and a day to day sense of the weight and positioning of forces.
For the US and EU governments, getting at ministers away from their Geneva negotiators, and isolated from one another in their respective national capitals, provides opportunities to exert the traditional persuasions. (or pressures) that dominant governments always use against weak and susceptible government leaders. The extremely serious recent indications are that the SA Ministry of Trade, in their determination to get support for their WTO position, are apparently pursuing similar tactics in Africa. The descriptions/designations of WTO negotiations have shifted from being ambitious and comprehensive, to broad-based and balanced, and then to a fundamental development round; but the tactic now being used by South Africa in its dealings with other African countries is to avoid altogether the use of the term round and simply refer to a fundamental development agenda in the belief that will disarm and win over the critics of the WTO.
13. Some fundamental questions on South Africa's position and role in the WTO
South African government figures directly involved in preparing for Qatar continue to convey the impression of being supremely confident of the correctness and effectiveness of this country's position and role in the WTO, although there is clear evidence that the South African government has had to subtly shift its positions in a number of ways in the face of continuing resistance by African and other developing country governments. It is also very likely that South African spokespersons are engaged in a propaganda campaign to convey the impression that their position is gaining ground. This is partly for domestic consumption, but also as a negotiating stance to keep up the persuasion/pressures on Africa and other developing countries, and for international (particularly Northern) governmental and media consumption. South Africa has gone out on a limb on the WTO and has staked the credibility of itsleadership role. not only in Africa but in the developing world as a whole, and it has to be seen by the major powers to be delivering on its claims to act as a bridge between the developing countries and the developed.
As recently as June this year, the Minister of Trade was still declaring that(we) have been able to play quite an important catalysing role for developing countries in the WTO in bringing together the bigger economies and the developing world. Towards this end, the South African Minister is convinced that you have to participate effectively and that what's important is the quality of the argument you can put forward, the ability to engage in discourse in a way that gets yourself heard.On the other hand, he also recognises thatat the end of the day this has to be driven by some mobilisation of power.In this, much depends on the alliances you form which, in the SA Minister's view, means the common positions developed with a critical mass of the other stronger countries identified by SA. This is what South Africa claims to be building, and building on.
On the other hand, the Minister laments that the developing countries tend tomerely articulate extremely basic positions and very seldom get beyond that, and the developing world has not been able to operationalise its own unity. It is legitimate to ask whether the positions of developing countries are indeed very basic or perhaps strategically more effective and tactically more skillful than South Africa's approach - which at the outset could be described as tactically more naïve and potentially self-defeating. This is not to argue, however, that the strategies of the developing countries, and especially Africa, are as effective as they could be. On the other hand, the lack of unity amongst the developing countries may also, in part, be due to South Africa'sown options and actions, its miscalculations and failures.
In the light of these observations, the South African government has to be interrogated on its options and its role on the following crucial questions: