World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin - Update

Week ending 28 April 2006

Key Issues

Overview

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy this week advised members that “genuine and important progress has been made but not fast enough”.  As such it was now not possible to meet the 30 April deadline set at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005 for agreement on a framework for tariff and subsidy cuts in agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA).  Lamy outlined a plan for driving the negotiations forward through a continuous and intensive Geneva-based process focussed on texts.  While there will be no ministerial meeting immediately following April 30, senior officials are currently meeting in Geneva to work on outstanding technical issues.  Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade Mark Vaile will visit Geneva May 1-2 for bilateral meetings with counterparts to discuss the way forward. 

Agriculture

The April special session on agriculture provided an opportunity for Members to acknowledge openly that the end-April deadline for the finalisation of agriculture modalities would not be met.  Members agreed there was a need to intensify work over the next six weeks through a series of rolling meetings on all of the key issues in the negotiations.  This process started in the latter half of this week with a set of meetings on market access issues.  The discussions will also address a forthcoming reference paper from the Chair on the Special Safeguard Mechanism. 

The April meetings concentrated on the two subsidies pillars on the basis of a number of reference papers from the Chair - food aid, export credits, state trading enterprises (STEs), Green Box and Blue Box.  Positions remain divergent on the issue of STEs.  The Chair’s reference paper on export credits prompted a detailed technical discussion, including on the issue of self financing and special circumstances.  There was a good discussion on food aid based on the Chair’s reference paper, with some progress being made on the shape of the safe box. 

Chair of the agriculture negotiations, Crawford Falconer, put forward a useful paper on the Blue Box which helpfully reduced the Blue Box cap to 2.5% of value of production (compared to 5% in the July 2005 Framework Agreement).  The paper also went some way in addressing disciplines on the Blue Box although it is clear that much more work needs to be done.  Falconer also released a reference paper on the Green Box but we, and others, continue to advocate that moving to more intense text-based discussion should be the priority on this issue.  There were also smaller restricted discussions on recently acceded members, tropical products, tariff escalation, tariff simplification, preference erosion and commodities.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (industrial products)

The NAMA Negotiating group made little progress in its recent meetings and there continues to be differences of view particularly on the core issue of the tariff reduction formula.  The Negotiating Group has agreed to move to a process of intensive and continuous negotiations, and the Chair hopes this process will move the negotiations to a text-based discussion.

The Chair held consultations, 4-6 April, on a range of side issues including newly-acceded members, preference erosion, low-binding coverage members, small and vulnerable economies and least-developed countries.  During these meetings draft texts concerning newly-acceded members and less-developed countries were circulated.

Consultations on formula, flexibilities for developing countries, unbound tariffs, sectoral initiatives, non-tariff barriers and newly-acceded members were held 10-11 April.  During these talks Turkey introduced a textiles harmonisation proposal.

Services

The WTO Services negotiations recently moved into a new phase with the launch of the plurilateral (or collective) sectoral request process agreed by Ministers at the Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong. These collective negotiations differ from the traditional ‘request-offer’ approach, which is conducted on a ‘one-to-one’ or bilateral basis.

After submission of more than 20 plurilateral requests in late February, officials from more than 50 WTO Members met in Geneva from 27 March to 7 April to discuss the requests and the prospect of further liberalisation by the conclusion of the Doha Round.  Australia is hopeful that the momentum built during the negotiations will help generate improved services offers by Members by the 31 July deadline set by Ministers in Hong Kong.

Australia was engaged in 20 of the 22 sectoral/modal requests presented and was a co-sponsor of 13 requests in sectors of key export interest to Australia: air transport services; architectural and engineering services; computer and related services; construction services; education services; energy services; environmental services; financial services; legal services; logistics services; maritime transport services; most favoured nation (MFN) exemptions (general); and telecommunications services. Australia received a further seven requests: audiovisual services; MFN Exemptions (audiovisual); mode 1/2 (cross-border services); mode 3 (commercial presence); mode 4 (temporary movement of service suppliers); postal/courier services; and services related to agriculture.

There is support amongst WTO members for a further round of plurilateral negotiations, tentatively scheduled for mid May.  Further detail on the requests sponsored by Australia can be found on the DFAT website at the following address: http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/services/requests_cosponsored.html .

Second Revised Offer
Consistent with the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, which called for a second round of revised offers to be tabled by 31 July 2006, DFAT has commenced identifying elements that potentially could be included in a further offer. The second revised offer would build on Australia’s previous offers (March 2003 and May 2005) and would take into account bilateral market requests to Australia as well as requests received through the recent plurilateral sectoral negotiations. DFAT is beginning consultations on the elements of Australia’s second revised offer, and would welcome views from industry, NGOs and other interested groups and individuals. Australia’s existing offer, tabled in May 2005, can be found on the DFAT website (http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/services).

Trade Facilitation

The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation most recently met on 5-6 April to continue its discussion of submissions on proposals covering specific aspects of the three GATT Articles under negotiation (Article V - Transit; Article VIII - Fees and formalities; and Article X - Publication and Administration of Trade Regulations).  There were a number of further submissions mostly building on proposals already put forward for the meeting to consider.  The meeting also focused on the development aspects of the trade facilitation mandate with further submissions discussed.  The Negotiating Group has agreed to hold an intersessional meeting on 11-12 May, prior to the next formal meeting scheduled for 5-7 June.

Trade and Environment

Following a special session of the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) in February, where members made some progress in mapping out a work plan for the environmental goods and services (Paragraph 31 (iii)) mandate, an informal meeting took place in early April to discuss specific products by category, with the aim of refining an environmental goods list.  Further discussion by category will continue at a meeting in early May.

Meetings in Geneva

(as at 28 April 2006)

MAY
1                 Trade Negotiations Committee
1-10           Rules negotiating weeks (trade remedies and fisheries subsidies)
8                 Council for Trade in Services Special Session
10-12         Committee on Trade and Environment Special Session
11-12          Committee on Trade and Development
12                Committee on Agriculture
15                General Council
16-19          NAMA Week
17                Trade Policy Review Body - Uruguay
18                Dispute Settlement Body
19                Trade Policy Review Body - Uruguay
22-23          Dispute Settlement Body Special Session
24                Council for Trade in Services Special Session
29-31          Rules days

June
6-7               Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation
7 & 9            Trade Policy Review Body - Iceland
12-13           Council for TRIPS Special Session
12-16           NAMA Week
12-23           Rules Weeks
19                 Dispute Settlement Body
20 & 22       Trade Policy Review Body - Chinese Taipei
26-30          Services Week
26 & 29       Council for Trade in Services Special Sessions
30                Dispute Settlement Body Special Session

Contact Us:

Trade Policy Section
Office of Trade Negotiations
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
BARTON ACT 0221
Fax: (02) 6261 3514

or email trade.consult@dfat.gov.au

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