World Trade Organization (WTO)
WTO Doha Round Bulletin
Week ending 23 September 2005
Agriculture negotiations resumed in Geneva last week (12 to 16 September). With less than three months to go until the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting, it was clear that without progress on agriculture, little headway is likely to be made on other key issues including NAMA and services.
Much of the week was spent discussing the process to move the negotiations forward to Hong Kong. New Agriculture Negotiations Chair, Crawford Falconer, suggested it was time to begin discussing the level of ambition expected (eg the size of the tariff cuts). There was broad agreement with this approach.
Market access is still widely recognised as the key to unblocking progress. The G20 proposal tabled at the end of July is widely perceived to be a useful middle ground from which to take the negotiations forward. Australia, the Cairns Group, US and G20 continue to resist EC/G10 (comprising Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Taiwan, Bulgaria, Iceland, Israel Liechtenstein, Mauritius and South Korea) efforts to insert additional flexibility into the tariff cutting formula for sensitive products beyond that which was provided under the sensitive product category in the July 2004 Framework Agreement.
Between now and the Hong Kong meeting there are likely to be a series of rolling small group meetings in Geneva to push the agriculture negotiations forward.
Australia participated in small-group meetings, convened by the Chair, in the week of 12 September to discuss technical issues in the non-agricultural market access negotiations. Participating Members discussed product coverage and a method for determining ad valorem equivalents (AVEs) for non- ad valorem tariffs. Members endorsed (subject to minor modifications) a methodology for calculating AVEs and agreed to an October deadline for the submission of their AVE calculations. On product coverage, Members agreed on the treatment as agricultural or non-agricultural of some of the lines where scheduling differences have arisen, and indicated some flexibility and a willingness to review issues relating to the outstanding items.
The Negotiating Group on Market Access (NGMA) has been meeting for the first time since the (northern) summer break from 21-23 September in Geneva. Discussions continue on the tariff reduction formula, including flexibility for developing countries, and treatment for unbound tariff rates; and non-tariff barriers to trade. Plurilateral meetings will precede the NGMA, to discuss sectoral initiatives to reduce or eliminate tariffs and/or non tariff barriers in certain sectors .
The Council for Trade in Services Special Session (the negotiating group on services) meets in Geneva in the week 26 to 30 September. The key focus of discussion will be on complementary approaches to the negotiations, including an exchange of views on targeting and assessment as a way of setting a higher level of ambition for the services negotiations at the 6th WTO Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December 2005.
Many Members consider the services offers on the table as disappointing in number, quality and sectoral coverage. To date, there are 69 initial offers (covering 93 Members) and 27 revised offers (51 Members). Australia submitted its revised offer on 26 May. All ASEAN Members have now made offers, as have all but one of the APEC WTO Members.
Given the strong sense among developed country Members and the more ambitious developing country Members that the request-offer process is not producing the desired market access results, there is a willingness among Members to explore complementary approaches. Australia is working with like-minded countries supporting efforts to develop both quantitative and qualitative targets and assessment tools to evaluate progress towards achieving these targets. The target setting is intended to complement, support and enhance, not replace or detract from, the established request offer process.
The Committee on Trade and Environment met in Special Session on 15 - 16 September. It was agreed that in the lead up to the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting, discussions would continue to focus on "environmental goods" with the possibility of developing an agreed list of environmental goods for consideration and possible adoption in Hong Kong. Australia and a number of other countries support this approach, although many developing countries have reservations. A number of countries have submitted lists of proposed environmental goods for consideration and these will be discussed further at the next CTESS meeting on 13-14 October. We intend to consult with relevant Australian industry groups in advance of this meeting to seek their views on the lists that have been put forward.
Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference - 13-18 December Hong Kong, China
Information on preparations for the Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference
Meetings in Geneva (as at 21 September 2005)
19-23 NAMA Week
19-23 Services Week
19 Committee on Trade in Financial Services
19-20 Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation
20 Working Party on Domestic Regulation
21-23 Negotiating Group on Market Access
21 Working Party on GATS Rules
22 Committee on Agriculture
22 Committee on Specific Committments
23 Council for Trade in Services
23 Dispute Settlement Body - Special Session
23 Committee on Rules of Origin
26-30 Rules Week
26-30 Services Week
26 Council for Trade in Services - Special Session
27 Dispute Settlement Body
28 Committee on Import Licensing
28 Sub-Committee on Cotton
29 Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration
29 Sub-Committee on Least-Developed Countries
29-30 Council for Trade in Services - Special Session
3 Working Party on the Accession of Yemen
3 Committee on Market Access
3 - 4 Negotiating Group on Rules - Regional Trade Agreements
3 - 4 Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance
5 - 6 Committee on Trade and Development
5 Trade Policy Review Body - Tunisia
10-14 NAMA week
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