World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin - Update

Week ending 30 June 2006

Key Issues

Overview

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, is currently in Geneva for a meeting of trade ministers seeking to break the deadlock in negotiations in agriculture and NAMA. 

Agriculture

In June negotiations continued on agriculture modalities.  The Chair of the agriculture negotiations, Crawford Falconer, tabled an omnibus modalities text covering market access, domestic support and export subsidies.  (www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dda_e/modalities06_e)
The text is heavily bracketed, indicating the significant differences that remain.  Ministers from the Cairns Group, chaired by Australia, issued a statement on 28 June calling on the European Commission and other WTO Members to come forward with offers on tariff cuts and sensitive products which would create commercially meaningful new market access opportunities. Cairns Group Ministers also called on the US and the European Commission to significantly reduce the amounts they currently spend on trade distorting domestic support.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

The NAMA Negotiating Group met continuously during June in a variety of formats, seeking to narrow the gaps in positions particularly on the core issues of the tariff reduction formula and the treatment of developing countries.  The NAMA Chair also held consultations on a range of other issues including preference erosion, recently acceded members, small and vulnerable economies and the treatment of members who have a low level of WTO tariff commitments.  There was little movement towards consensus. 

The NAMA Chair released his report, "Towards NAMA Modalities", for submission to the Trade Negotiations Committee. (www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dda_e/modalities06_e)
The Chair's report sets out the results of the negotiations to date and the principal issues and options on questions that remain unresolved.  The report shows there has been limited progress and progress remains conditional upon progress in the agriculture negotiations. 

Throughout June the Negotiating Group also considered proposals on the treatment of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), with discussions still at an early stage.  Countries proposing sectoral initiatives are also continuing to hold meetings to obtain support for their proposals.

Services

Market Access Negotiations

Services negotiators did not re-convene in Geneva in June.  Instead, capitals-based work on the finalisation of revised offers (in anticipation of the 31 July deadline agreed by Ministers at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong in December 2005) continued throughout the month.  Plurilateral negotiations, which complement the traditional bilateral request-offer process, are presently expected to resume in September.  The agenda for post-31 July negotiations remains subject, however, to progress during July on agriculture and NAMA.

Australian delegations travelled to Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia to press officials to substantially improve their GATS market access offers by 31 July.  Meetings were held with senior officials from a range of departmental and regulatory agencies.  Representations targeted improvements in relation to services sectors where Australia has identified commercial interests, such as professional services (legal, architecture, engineering and accounting), telecommunications and financial services.  Officials generally indicated an intention to lodge revised offers by the due date of 31 July.

Second Revised Offer

DFAT is continuing consultations on elements to be included in a further revised Australian offer to be tabled by 31 July. 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 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).

Domestic Regulation

Negotiations in relation to disciplines on domestic regulation continued.  Australia co-sponsored a draft text (prepared in association with Hong Kong, New Zealand and Chile) that was tabled at the 19 -20 June meeting of the Working Party on Domestic Regulation.  The Chair of the Working Party now has a mandate to develop a consolidated draft legal text that will serve as the basis for further negotiations.  The Chair is expected to circulate a draft text before the end of July.

Intellectual Property

A TRIPS Council Special Session (for negotiations for a multilateral register for the protection of geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits) was held on 12-13 June.  The negotiations were characterised by strong restatements of familiar positions, with Australia and like-mindeds advocating a voluntary register, and the EC promoting their proposal for a register with legal effects and universal application.  A further Special Session will be held on 19-20 July. 

The Regular Session of the TRIPS Council on 14-15 June included discussion of a proposal by India and Brazil and other like-minded Members to amend the TRIPS Agreement to require disclosure of the origin of genetic resources in patent applications and evidence of benefit sharing arrangements for accessing such resources.  Australia argued that it was premature and inappropriate to consider such an amendment as proponents were yet to establish the nature and scope of the problems complained of, and the suitability of the proposed amendments in effecting desired outcomes.

Consultations on the extension of higher level protection afforded the GIs of wines and spirits to all products were also held during that week.  There was no convergence between the views of proponents of extension, and those opposed, including Australia. 

Trade Facilitation

The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation is continuing to meet each month, having last met on 6-7 June with the next meeting scheduled for 24-26 July.  The negotiations are making good progress towards the development of new WTO commitments on trade facilitation. Members began presenting specific text proposals at the June session, on issues such as customs clearance times, pre-arrival processing, fees and charges, and the publication and transparency of customs-related procedures.  Further commitments on the transit of goods, pre-shipment inspections and authorised traders were proposed.  Developing country implementation was another key issue discussed, with Members' giving a largely positive response to the proposed mechanism aimed at allowing developing countries to implement trade facilitation measures in a graduated manner.

Trade and Environment

At a special session of the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) in February, Members made some progress in mapping out a work plan for the environmental goods and services (Paragraph 31 (iii)) mandate.  At subsequent technical meetings in April and May and June, Members discussed specific products by category, with the aim of refining an environmental goods list.  Further technical discussion will continue at a special session in early July. 

WTO Rules

Subsidies and Trade Remedies

A rolling series of meetings of the Rules Negotiating Group held during June allowed Members to complete analysis of outstanding proposals ahead of the Chair's tabling of his consolidated text by the end of July.
Nineteen proposals were considered on clarification and amendment of the WTO Anti-Dumping Agreement.  Four subsidies proposals were discussed. Submissions included the EC proposal to expand the category of prohibited subsidies.

Negotiations on fisheries subsidies saw limited progress. Four new proposals (submitted by Argentina, New Zealand, a revised paper co-sponsored by Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei and the fourth version of a proposal from Brazil) were discussed in plenary and in small group consultations. Despite these more intensive and focussed discussions on the scope of disciplines, special and differential treatment for developing countries and enhanced transparency mechanisms, views remained divergent and entrenched.

No further meetings will be held before the Chair's text is tabled.

Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs)

The Negotiating Group on RTA Rules met on 28 June in an attempt to resolve outstanding issues on a transparency mechanism for RTAs.  Extensive discussions in June have resulted in a revised consensus text which will be put to the Trade Negotiations Committee for approval on 3 July. The Mechanism substantially improves procedures for the notification and examination of all RTAs, including Enabling Clause Agreements between developing countries.

Resolution of the Transparency Mechanism should mean the Negotiating Group on RTA Rules can refocus on negotiations to improve the substantive WTO rules applicable to RTAs.  Australia has played a leading role in pressing for effective WTO disciplines for RTAs, particularly through the development of a definition of "substantially all trade" (SAT).

Meetings in Geneva

(as at 30 June 2006)

July
3                   Trade Negotiations Committee
3 & 5                   Trade Policy Review Body - Togo
4                   Committee on Regional Trade Agreements
6-7                   Committee on Trade and Environment Special Session
7                   Committee on Trade and Development Special Session
13                   Dispute Settlement Body Special Session
14                   Council for Trade in Services Special Session
17-21                    NAMA Week
18                   Council for Trade in Goods
19                   Committee on Trade and Development Dedicated Session
19                   Dispute Settlement Body
19-20                   TRIPS Council Special Session
24-26                   Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation
24 & 26                   Trade Policy Review Body - Nicaragua
27-28                   General Council

August
No meetings scheduled

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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