World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

Week ending 3 June 2005

Key Issues

WTO Informal Ministerial Meeting, Paris on 4 May

Mr Vaile and 29 other key Ministers met on 4 May at an informal Ministerial Meeting chaired by Hong Kong, China and held in the Australian Embassy in Paris. The Meeting reiterated Ministers' political commitment to the Round and reviewed progress in key sectors of the Doha Round negotiations - building on previous WTO informal Ministerial Meetings in Davos, Switzerland, in January and Mombasa, Kenya, in March. The next informal Ministerial Meeting will be in Dalian, China, on 12 and 13 July.

The most important outcome of the WTO Ministers meeting was agreement on a methodology for calculating ad valorem equivalents (AVEs) - percentage equivalents for agricultural tariffs that are not expressed in percentage (ad valorem) terms. The calculation of AVEs is necessary to enable the equitable application of a formula for cutting agricultural tariffs.

Agreement on AVE methodology will resolve a crucial ‘gateway' issue which has been blocking progress in the Doha Round agriculture negotiations for several months. An informal meeting of the Agriculture Group in Geneva on 10 May expressed broad agreement to the Paris methodology, and the remaining AVE issues - including details of the verification process - are scheduled to be finalised during the May Special Session. The calculation of AVEs will enable Members to move on with the negotiation of the tariff-cutting formula and the other elements of the market access pillar. An ambitious outcome on market access is a high priority for Australia and other Cairns Group members.

Australia's Revised GATS Offers

On 26 May 2005, Australia tabled a revised offer in the World Trade Organization's services trade negotiations in Geneva, within the 31 May 2005 deadline for improved offers established in the July 2004 Package. The revised offer is the latest step in the Doha negotiating round that aims to progressively liberalise trade in services.

Australia's offer includes legal, telecommunications, environmental, private health, freight logistics, construction and related engineering services, air transport (marketing) services, and other business services. Our offers on legal, telecommunications and freight logistics services, all essential pillars of business infrastructure that promote and facilitate trade in both goods and services as well as investment, are more ambitious than those made to date by any other Member. We are particularly keen to see other Members match our offers in these sectors.

We are also offering improved commitments covering temporary entry to Australia by business people. This responds directly to the concerns and interests of developing countries, and reflects Australia's own strong interests in achieving more open access to the markets of other countries for our services professionals.

Fostering better access to services markets in all WTO member countries is an essential part of improving employment opportunities and ensuring continued economic growth throughout the region. We now look to other WTO members to match our initiative and submit equally ambitious offers. We welcome the revised offers of Canada, the United States, Chinese Taipei, Korea and Singapore, and the recent initial offers of Indonesia, The Philippines and Brunei. These bring the tally of initial offers to 60 covering 85 Members.

Attention will focus on revised offers and rules issues when WTO Members meet for the Services Cluster in Geneva from 20 June to 1 July 2005. The goal will be to reach agreement on a course of action that ensures Members are well placed to report strong progress when WTO Ministers meet in Hong Kong in December 2005. Members will need to continue to work productively, building on existing initial and revised offers.

Non-Agricultural Products Negotiations: April meeting

The Negotiating Group on Non-agricultural Market Access (NAMA) covering industrials, minerals, energy, fisheries and forestry products last met from 25 to 29 April. Members discussed recent formula proposals, including by Argentina, Brazil and India. The tabling of that proposal was welcomed as it has enabled Members to focus on resolving outstanding differences now that the ‘universe' of tariff proposals is on the table.

The formula proposed by Argentina, Brazil and India attempts to deliver on the principle of 'less-than-full reciprocity' for developing countries by incorporating a Member's average bound tariff into its reduction commitments. The proposal drew mixed responses from Members, with some arguing that only a small number of developing countries would be able to take advantage of the flexibilities proposed, and other Members expressing doubt about the ability of the formula to deliver meaningful liberalisation. Members also remain divided on the treatment of unbound tariff lines, i.e., items for which countries have not yet established an upper limit for tariffs. They disagree particularly about whether newly bound tariff lines should be subject to formula reductions. At the next NAMA meeting (6-10 June), Members are expected to continue discussions on recent formula proposals, including those related to unbound tariff lines, and to continue examination of non-tariff barriers proposed by Members for addressing within NAMA negotiations.

Pascal Lamy confirmed as next WTO Director-General

At a meeting of the WTO General Council on 26-27 May, Pascal Lamy of France, a former EC Trade Commissioner, was confirmed as successor to the current WTO Director-General, Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi.

Mr Lamy was selected following three rounds of informal consultations in Geneva by the WTO General Council Chair, Ambassador Mohamed of Kenya , during which Mr Lamy emerged as the candidate most likely to attract consensus support from WTO Members.

The other candidates - Jaya Cuttaree, Mauritian Foreign and Trade Minister; Luis Felipé de Seixas-Correa, Brazil's current WTO Ambassador; and Carlos Pérez del Castillo of Uruguay, Australia's preferred candidate - withdrew once the results of the informal consultations became clear. Importantly, the selection process ran very smoothly and did not distract attention from the Round.

Mr Vaile has welcomed the news, noting Mr Lamy's significant WTO skills and experience, and said he looks forward to working with the former EC Trade Commissioner to achieve an ambitious outcome to the Doha Round.

Mr Lamy will take over formally from Dr Supachai on 1 September 2005.

OECD Ministerial Council Meeting

On 2-3 May, Mr Vaile attended the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris. The challenges facing the global trading system were highlighted during the Meeting with Ministers calling for a heightened sense of urgency to achieve an ambitious result from the Doha Round by the end of 2006.

Press releases, speeches and statements from the Meeting are available.

NGO registration open for Hong Kong Ministerial Conference

Details of how NGOs can register to attend the Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, 13 to 18 December 2005, are now available.

Requests for registration must be received by 29 July 2005 (midnight, GMT). After that date, the on-line form will be closed and requests for registration will no longer be processed.

More on the Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference.

Forthcoming meetings in Geneva

June

July

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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