World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

Week ending 30 July 2004 (Issue 2004/25)

This bulletin, summarising key WTO Doha Round-related activities, is issued by the Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Key Issues

Framework Package agreed in Geneva

After a week of intensive negotiations, the General Council on 31 July adopted a 'framework package' of decisions which lays the basis for the next phase of the Doha Round. It locks in the mandate for the Doha Round. The result is a good one for Australia. Members reiterated their commitment to the Round and have agreed that the next Ministerial Conference will be held in Hong Kong in December 2005.

For agriculture the negotiating framework contained in Annex A addresses the three pillars of export subsidies, domestic support and market access. It commits both the US and EU to the elimination of export subsidies and will remove unfair subsidised competition through government-supported export credit programs. It also establishes new measures to manage the delivery of food aid in such a way as not to distort trade. On market access it provides for an approach to cut tariffs and open markets. This last pillar is not as ambitious as we would have liked, but is much stronger than the tariff cuts and market openings that we faced in text at CancĂșn. Sensitive products will be permitted and the text provides the parameters for how these are to be approached.

The agreed framework on Non-agricultural market access, NAMA (Annex B of the package) was not as specific or as firmly locked in as the agriculture but nevertheless provides an agreed basis for moving ahead. It calls for the comprehensive reduction or elimination of tariffs and seeks to address tariff peaks, high tariffs, tariff escalation and non-tariff barriers. All industrial products will be covered in the negotiations, without exception, although Annex B now includes a paragraph outlining that there are areas of concern to developing countries and where additional negotiations will be required.

Australia's efforts to have Services recognised in the General Council decision reflects the growing importance of Services to the global economy, currently providing more than 60 per cent of global output. Under the framework package, Annex C reiterates calls on Members who have not already done so to submit offers as soon as possible. The General Council decision also calls on all members to submit improved offers by May 2005.

Uncertainty over the Singapore issues (investment, competition policy, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation) was finally put to rest with agreement in the framework package that only trade facilitation would be negotiated during the Doha Round. The remaining issues are to be relegated to the Doha work program, and will not form part of the negotiations. Annex D provides the modalities for the negotiations on trade facilitation and recognises the particular difficulties faced by developing countries in having the financial and technical capacity to undertake such improvements to trade facilitation and commits developed Members to the provision of technical assistance and capacity building.

The development focus of the Doha Round is very much emphasised in the framework package with extensive recognition and the integration of special and differential treatment provisions, technical assistance and capacity building built into the text. Developing countries have also committed to further liberalisation, with the exception of least developed countries (LDCs) which have been exempted from making new commitments in agriculture and industrials. Australia considers that economic reform in developing countries is vital for their longer term economic development. Liberalisation in these markets will improve market access opportunities, particularly for other developing countries. Improvements in market access, particularly for agriculture as well as the removal of trade distorting subsidies and domestic support will have a significant benefit for the developing world.

Securing a text on agriculture that meets the ambition of the mandate set by WTO Ministers on all three pillars of the Doha mandate - market access, export subsidies and domestic support remains Australia's highest priority. Market access continues to be the most difficult issue in the negotiations with some (including the EU and US) continuing to resist ambitious tariff cuts and TRQ expansion and others wanting extensive favourable treatment for 'sensitive' products which they have a particular domestic interest in protecting. The Chair of the Agriculture Negotiating Group, Groser (NZ) chaired an open-ended informal meeting on 28 July to allow all members to put forward views. A new text is expected to be presented today (30 July) in Geneva.

The negotiations on non-agricultural market access (NAMA) continue to be dogged by uncertainty as to whether the Oshima text of a framework for negotiations on NAMA will remain intact, with some (principally Africa Group or ACP members) calling for the text to be reopened and others (including the Chair of the NAMA Negotiating Group Ambassador Johannesson) attempting to craft language for a cover note that will preserve the existing text, while acknowledging the concerns that have been raised and the need for future negotiations on some elements.

There appears to be consensus emerging that negotiations on trade facilitation will be launched, but the other three so-called "Singapore issues" - competition policy, investment and transparency in government procurement - will be dropped from the Doha Round.

Consensus also appears to be building that the services negotiations be highlighted in the July framework more than as provided for in the initial Oshima draft text.

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.

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