represented by Suleika Suntken and Anne Zimmer
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organisation dealing with the rules of trade between nations. The WTO is based on agreements, negotiated and signed by almost all trading nations in the world. Currently there are 153 Member States.
The goal of the WTO is to help trade ‘flow as freely, smoothly and fairly as possible’. Its main functions are the administration of the WTO trade agreements, serving as a forum for trade negotiations, handling trade disputes and monitoring national trade policies. It is also providing technical assistance and training for developing countries. Moreover, it closely co-operates with other international organisations like the World Bank or the United Nations (UN). This is why despite the WTO not being an actual body of the UN our Committee was nevertheless part of the NMUN conference.
On the first day of the conference, we attended the Opening Ceremony in the General Assembly Hall and then quickly went back to the hotel where the first session of our Committee was about to begin very soon. Since the hotel elevators were desperately overstrained by the mass of delegates, trying to get to the conference rooms in the lower stories was the first challenge we had to conquer that evening. Finally, having managed to get to the conference rooms the Chair said some introductory words and asked for volunteers for the role of the Page. He then proceeded by starting to check presence of the delegations by roll-call. The next step on the conference schedule was setting the agenda.
Our 3 agenda topics were:
- Furthering Trade Facilitation Based on the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration;
- The Relationship between WTO Rules and Multilateral Environmental Trade Agreements; and
- The Role of Regional Trade Agreements in the International Trading System.
Since we knew, we would not have the time to discuss all topics, it was almost certain that the topic voted to be first on the agenda would be the only one we were going to able to talk about during the whole conference. Therefore setting the agenda in the preferred order could be very decisive for the outcome of the conference. Our preferred topic was also the broadest termed: ‘Trade Facilitation’. We were interested in setting it to be first topic because trade liberalisation and facilitation constitute the main business of the WTO and Australia can be described as being very much a champion of free and fair trade. As second topic we preferred to talk about Regionalism since the Asian Pacific region is a main focus of Australia. As Multilateral Environmental Trade Agreements are a very complex topic dealing more with legal issues of interpretation matters than with trade issues, we were keen on discussing it as the third topic. Although all possible combinations of order had been proposed, the order we had preferred fortunately was the agenda which finally was being passed. Therefore, the topic we would be dealing with during the conference was trade facilitation based on the Hong Kong Ministerial conference. We then tried to be set on the speakers list which was not easy with the mass of other delegations waving their placards to be set on the list as well. We finally managed to get on the list, but unfortunately with about 100 other delegations before us. The Committee then passed the motion to set a limit to the speaker’s time of 45 seconds. In the next caucus we approached some Asian countries and talked about our ideas. Afterwards we approached some European countries since we expected them – together with the United States – to be the strongest opponents to trade liberalisation concerning the issue of cutting agricultural subsidies. Surprisingly, France was very open to discuss cutting agricultural subsidies.
On the second day after roll-call was finished, one of us talked to some more European countries and the other approached the African bloc. In the African bloc, Egypt had already begun to write a working paper and after Australia had shortly explained its point of view on some topics we were asked to write a short text on capacity building and cutting agricultural subsidies which could then be inserted in the working paper. So one of us took her notebook and together with Tajikistan we wrote a text. At the same time during negotiation with the European bloc, the United Kingdom and Belgium were willing to co-operate on a working paper on subsidies as long as it contained a moderate approach to a gradual reduction in agricultural subsidies taking into account the burden of the economic situation caused by the financial crisis and therefore not starting before the year 2013. In the end of the day we gave our other text to Egypt.
On the third day, after roll-call the session started off with a first disappointment: Egypt did not insert our part in the working paper explaining to us that the other African countries did not feel that comfortable with it. So we decided to focus on co-operating with the European bloc because upon being able to find a compromise they would accept seemed the best way for us to achieve progress on the field of agricultural subsidies. Thus, we were working together with France, Belgium, Luxemburg, New Zealand, Latvia and other counties on a working paper calling to gradually cut agricultural subsidies starting in 2013 by 10 per cent and then annually by 5 per cent, for developing countries we demanded a 5 per cent cut starting in 2013 and then a 2.5 per cent cut annually. Finally it was our turn on the speakers list, so we held our 45 second speech encouraging others to work closely with us on cutting subsidies, also mentioning the close co-operation with France, Luxemburg and Belgium and our working paper. In response to the speech we received a lot of feedback and ideas from the Eastern European bloc. Also other developing and least developed countries argued that they would not be able to meet these goals. Especially Serbia and Moldavia expressed their concerns and different views on this topic. We considered the numerous ideas and agreed to include that ‘developing countries and LDCs receive a special treatment’, this refers to ‘low and low-middle income states’.
There were other groups working on an immediate cut of subsidies, which Australia thought about giving its support to, however, we thought this more radical approach might be unrealistic and stuck to our position calling for a rather gradual approach, especially since some developing countries had already told us that they were not able to cut subsidies immediately or in the near future.
During the day we were approached by many countries working on different topics, such as the Single Window Initiative (SWI) which basically means one single entry point for all imports thereby cutting red tape and standardising regulations. On this topic we worked very closely with Chile. Australia strongly supports the SWI and we were also mentioned as a role model in Chile’s working paper, in the ‘Recommendations’ part (as Australia organised regional workshops which provide for the exchange of information and provide participants with tools to assist them in the development of their own single windows).
On the last day of Committee session, we started off yet again with roll-call. We then forged the working paper on subsidies with France and Luxembourg, informed and lobbied other countries, discussed further the issue with developing countries and least-developed countries, included an idea put forward by Serbia to create a conference dealing and advising countries that have difficulties with job losses (due to the cut of subsidies) in their new economic situation etc. This was especially supported and demanded by the Eastern European bloc. We included a segment calling for a conference called The Summit on New Industry and Job Creating which would address the needs of Member States that face problems with restructuring their economies. Unfortunately, Belgium suddenly decided to withdraw its sponsorship from our working paper, as they had decided to be a rather neutral state. But our working paper still had enough sponsors to be brought to the chair. We held our second 45 seconds speech calling to support our working paper and repeating that subsidies are a hindrance to free and fair trade and a special burden to developing and least developed countries, lobbying that our working paper supports this gradual approach which is the only realistic way of proceeding towards cutting subsidies. Now most of the working papers had already been brought to the chair and were now printed and distributed to all delegations, now being called ‘draft report segments’. It was hard to manage to read all 14 draft report segments in the meantime since they were most of all five or six pages long and not easy to read. As soon as all draft report segments had been handed out, we went into voting procedure with our working paper on subsidies being called draft report segment 1/7. We voted on the different draft report segments, sometimes by roll-call vote as certain countries motioned to do so. All draft report segments passed except for one, some even by acclamation, some with friendly and some with unfriendly changes. Our draft report segment became report segment 1/6, but to our discontent the unfriendly amendment to change the percentage concerning the cut of subsidies of low and low-middle income states, passed. Surprisingly the other draft report segment which demanded an immediate and radical cut in agricultural subsidies also passed, although the Netherlands reminded the voting delegations that this draft was partly contradicting to the already passed report segment which was ours.On Saturday, we got to be in one of the conference rooms of the actual General Assembly and the report segments of the WTO were reported to the Economic and Social Council.