World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

Week ending 21 May 2004 (Issue 2004/15)

Key Issues

Informal WTO Ministers’ Meeting in Paris – 14 May 2004

An informal meeting of a number of WTO Ministers attended by Mr Vaile was held in the margins of the Paris OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (see item below) on 14 May 2004. The meeting confirmed broad-based political commitment to agree on negotiating frameworks for agriculture and non-agricultural market access by the end of July.

Agriculture remains the key. In a media release dated 16 May 2004, Trade Minister Mark Vaile welcomed the important progress made at the meeting, but noted that “clearly we still have difficult issues to resolve”. Chief amongst these is achieving a framework text on agriculture that delivers on market access and results in “real improvements in trade flows”. Mr Vaile noted that “wide differences” still remain on agricultural market access, but that the Cairns Group, along with the G20 grouping of developing countries, would be working to explore new ideas to bridge the differences among WTO Members. On the other two agricultural pillars, the EU’s proposal to eliminate agricultural export subsidies (reported in last week’s bulletin) was welcomed by Ministers in Paris as a positive contribution to moving the Round forward, and progress was also made on how to deal with domestic support.

There was also general agreement that progress in agriculture would in turn unblock other areas of the negotiations, particularly on industrial products. In a further positive development, Ministers agreed a way forward on the Singapore issues, which had triggered the breakdown in Cancun last year. Negotiations should proceed on only one of the issues, trade facilitation, under the Round, whilst the other three issues (competition policy, investment and transparency in government procurement) would remain the subject of further study in the WTO’s working groups.

The full text of Mr Vaile’s media release can be accessed at:
http://www.trademinister.gov.au/releases/2004/mvt034_04.html.

OECD Ministerial Council Meeting: Statement on WTO – 13-14 May 2004

At the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on 13-14 May 2004, which Mr Vaile also attended, Ministers acknowledged the paramountcy of the multilateral trading system and emphasised the importance of a positive outcome to the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) to “renew and strengthen trust” in the system. To this end, Ministers noted their determination to reach basic agreements on negotiating frameworks by the end of July, building on the experiences of Cancun and the work done since then. Ministers again nominated agricultural reform as the key to progress, and noted that movement on agriculture would help generate progress on the other core issues of the DDA.

The summary released by the Chair at the conclusion of the meeting also emphasised that the “highest importance” needs to be placed on trade and development issues. While acknowledging that much work had been done in this area, Ministers agreed that the “concerns of the poorest countries have to be taken to heart in July and in the final DDA agreement”.

The full text of the Chair’s summary can be accessed at:
http://www.oecd.org/.

WTO General Council Meeting – 17-18 May 2004

In Geneva, at the WTO General Council meeting held on 17-18 May 2004, Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi acknowledged the important role of the discussions that took place in Paris. He noted that “the political impetus given to the Round in recent weeks [by the Paris meetings, as well as the Fischler/Lamy letter and the meeting of LDC Ministers in Senegal] has been absolutely vital … the challenge now [was] to bring this political momentum to bear in the Geneva process and to obtain concrete outcomes at the multilateral level”.

The next General Council meeting is scheduled for 27-29 July 2004.

African Training Workshop on services trade

As part of continued efforts at outreach and capacity building in the context of the Doha Development Round, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade is sponsoring a two day regional training workshop on services trade for African trade negotiators in Port Louis, Mauritius on 27 and 28 May 2004. Funding for the workshop was provided by AusAID through its Africa Governance Program. Workshop participants, mainly drawn from trade ministries in the region, will include negotiators from Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Madagascar. The workshop will be conducted by Andrew Stoler, Executive Director, Institute for International Business, Economics and Law, University of Adelaide, South Australia (a former Deputy Director of the WTO). The workshop will focus on the scheduling of a services offer and assessing requests made for services liberalisation in line with national development priorities.

Forthcoming meetings in Geneva

MAY

24-25 Dispute Settlement Body – Special Session

25-27 WTO Public Symposium

28 Dispute Settlement Body – Special Session

JUNE

1 Dispute Settlement Body

2-4 Committee on Agriculture – Special Session

4 Committee of Participants on the Expansion of Trade in Information Technology Products

Contact Us

Trade Policy Section
Office of Trade Negotiations
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
BARTON ACT 0221
Fax: (02) 6261 3514
or e-mail trade.consult@dfat.gov.au

This bulletin is issued by the Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It summarises key WTO Doha Round-related activities over the past week.

[More WTO Doha Round Bulletins]