World Trade Organization (WTO)
WTO Doha Round Bulletin
Week ending 11 March 2005
- WTO - Minister Vaile attended informal Ministerial gathering in Kenya
- WTO Services Cluster Meeting
- WTO Agriculture Negotiations
- Forthcoming meetings in Geneva
A core group of key WTO Ministers, including Mr Vaile, met in Kenya from 2 to 4 March to discuss the Doha Round. Over thirty-five Ministers were invited, covering a broad range of Members, including developing countries and LDCs. The most important result was a breakthrough in setting a process for tabling, by the end of April, critical data for deciding on an agricultural tariff cutting formula. This has been a real sticking point in the agriculture negotiations. Ministers also agreed to decide on a formula to cut industrial product tariffs by the end of June. The importance of progress in the services negotiations was highlighted at the meeting as well. Mr Vaile indicated that Australia was leading by example and was looking to revise its initial offer by the May deadline, and encouraged others to do likewise.
Australia is hopeful these outcomes will inject impetus into the agricultural and industrial products negotiations, and encourage further, higher-quality services offers. Securing better market access for our farmers, producers, manufacturers and service providers remains a key priority for Australia in the Doha Round.
At the meeting, Mr Vaile announced that Australia would be making another generous contribution of $500,000 to the WTO Global Trust Fund to support developing countries' participation in the Round. This reflects Australia's commitment to assisting developing countries reap the benefits of liberalisation.
The next gathering of WTO Ministers will be hosted by Hong Kong in May 2005 in Paris on the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting.
The most recent 'cluster' of services negotiations was held in Geneva from 7 to 25 February 2005. The cluster was longer than usual in order that Members could engage in an extensive round of bilateral meetings, the last opportunity to do so ahead of the May deadline for submission of revised services offers. The bi-lateral process of requests and offers of market access remains well behind schedule, although the cluster saw three new initial offers including from Barbados, Uganda and Indonesia which was particularly welcomed by Australia. The total number of initial offers now on the table stands at 53 (covering 74 Members). In Australia's bilateral meetings with 18 trading partners during the cluster, the advice from most was that they would be willing to table an improved offer in May.
Despite these positive developments, there remains a feeling among some Members that the general quality of offers to date is poor, with little on the table to move market access commitments significantly beyond those from the Uruguay Round. Statements made by Members in the final meeting of the Special Session of the CTS held on 25 February emphasised the importance of the May deadline for submission of revised offers. The core group of WTO Trade Ministers that met recently at an informal ministerial meeting in Kenya, held from 2-4 March 2005, also emphasised the importance of ensuring a critical mass of high quality revised offers (both in numbers and sectoral coverage) be submitted by the May 2005 deadline.
The May tabling of offers will therefore be an important milestone and pressure point for the negotiations. At the conclusion of the Special Session of the CTS, there was widespread support among Members to hold additional consultations on services trade issues intersessionally, as it was generally agreed that the remaining two scheduled services clusters for 2005 are insufficient to make necessary progress on services liberalisation before the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December.
Australia is currently completing domestic consultations with a view to finalising a revised services offer for submission by the May deadline.
After the agreement on the Framework Package last year, the agricultural negotiations have entered a highly technical and complex 'modalities' phase. The Chair, Ambassador Groser of New Zealand has focused work on completing a 'first reading' on all key modalities issues on all three pillars of the agriculture negotiations (export competition, market access and domestic support). Inter alia, this has included discussions on tariff reduction formulas, criteria for exceptions and sensitive products, phasing periods, a formula for TRQ expansion, the depth of cut for amber and blue box subsidies, the nature of any product-specific caps, phasing out arrangements for the elimination of export subsidies and export credits of over 80 days, TRQ administration and revised criteria for the blue and green boxes.
This process has familiarised members with the issues, enhanced recognition of the work needed to complete the negotiations, and identified the areas that will require the greatest attention to resolve.
The March Special Session on Agriculture (14-18 March) should see completion of this 'first reading' phase. Follow-up by members on the recommendations of the Kenyan informal Ministerial meeting will hopefully provide valuable impetus to the market access negotiations with progress on the issue of conversion of AVEs by the end of April.
Australia will host a meeting of Ministers of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters in Cartagena, Columbia 31 March - 2 April to discuss common approaches for the next phase of negotiations.
11 WTO Council for Trade in Goods
11 WTO Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights - Special Session
11 WTO Working Group on Trade and Transfer of Technology
14 - 15 WTO Negotiating Group on Market Access
14 WTO Committee on Government Procurement
15 WTO Trade Policy Review Body - Mongolia
16 WTO Committee On Agriculture
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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.