World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

May 2008

This bulletin, summarising key WTO Doha Round-related activities, is issued by the Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Key Issues

Overview and Highlights

The Chairs of the agriculture and Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) negotiating groups are expected to release further revised modalities texts in May. On agriculture, a revised package on the gateway issue of ‘Sensitive Products’ – a flexibility which allows Members to deviate from full tariff formula cuts - has been finalised amongst a core group of six members (including Australia) and presented to the wider WTO membership, which has raised some concerns with the package. On NAMA, meetings in April confirmed wide support for a limited-option ‘sliding scale’ structure linking the tariff-cutting formula and the flexibilities available to developing countries. On services, there is broad acceptance that a Ministerial signalling conference will proceed. Officials are continuing to meet in Geneva and work towards a Ministerial meeting in May or June 2008.

Agriculture

Over the past few weeks a group of six WTO Members, (Australia, Canada, Brazil, European Union, Japan and the United States) have continued to focus largely on the gateway issue of ‘Sensitive Products’ – a flexibility which allows Members to deviate from full tariff formula cuts. After an initial agreement in April, a revised package has been finalised amongst the group of six incorporating comments from the wider WTO membership. This package was presented to the wider Membership on 30 April. Further consultations with the wider membership are planned before the release of a revised agriculture text by Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer.

Negotiations continue on the linked issues of tropical products and preference erosion. These two issues are considered gateway issues, in conjunction with Sensitive Products; lack of progress on these issues would inhibit the Chair Falconer’s ability to revise the draft modalities text. Other key outstanding issues include Special Products, the Special Agricultural Safeguard (SSG), the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), tariff quota administration and the treatment of in-quota duty rates.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

Meetings held by NAMA Chair Don Stephenson with WTO Members in April confirmed wide support for a ‘sliding scale’ structure linking the tariff-cutting formula and the flexibilities available to developing countries. Under this proposal, developing countries could choose to apply a more ambitious formula coefficient in return for expanded flexibilities or a less ambitious coefficient for reduced or no flexibilities. However, there remains a lack of convergence between the major players on key aspects, including the numbers for coefficients and flexibilities for different options in the sliding scale.

Services

Australia will participate in a further round of services negotiations in Geneva from 5 May. The aim will be to advance Australia’s bilateral and plurilateral (sectoral) requests, and to work bilaterally with key trading partners to secure market access opportunities that are commercially meaningful to Australia.

Australia also sees this round of negotiations as an opportunity to work collaboratively with others in advance of the proposed ministerial signalling conference on services, to ensure the conference generates the necessary momentum for an ambitious Doha outcome on services. There is broad acceptance that the signalling conference will proceed in May or June.

Discussions on developing a full services text are also expected to continue. Australia is pressing for the inclusion of ambitious language on market access, in particular.

Intellectual Property

A Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council Special Session for negotiations for a multilateral register for the protection of geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits was held on 29 April. The negotiations were characterised by vigorous restatements of familiar positions, with Australia and like-mindeds advocating a voluntary register, and the EC promoting its proposal for a register with strong legal effects and broad application.

Trade and Environment

Members continued discussions in the Committee on Trade and Environment Special Session (CTESS) on principal issues mandated for negotiation under paragraph 31 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration. Small group meetings were convened in January and February in the lead up to the last informal CTESS, held on 27 February. At the 30 November 2007 informal CTESS, the US and EC submitted a proposal on the liberalisation of a discrete group of "climate-friendly" goods. Australia has indicated its broad support for the proposal and is currently conducting detailed product analysis. The next meeting of the CTESS has been set down for 5-6 May. It is hoped that this meeting will provide guidance for a way forward in the trade and environment negotiations.

Trade Facilitation

The Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group did not meet in April as originally planned. Work has continued intersessionally on aspects of the mandate, including special and differential treatment for developing countries. Work is advancing well on a project coordinated by the WTO Secretariat to facilitate developing country self-assessment of trade facilitation needs and priorities. Australia is working with the WTO Secretariat and the Oceania Customs Organisation to support a program of trade facilitation needs assessments in the South Pacific region.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The Rules Negotiating Group met on 21-25 April to continue discussions on Rules Chair Guillermo Valles-Galmes’s draft text on the three areas of anti-dumping, subsidies and fisheries subsidies. Plenary discussion on anti-dumping examined a paper from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) and African Groups seeking enhanced rights for developing countries in taking anti-dumping and defending anti-dumping cases. Small group discussions also continued on issues which have not been included in the Chair’s text, including the treatment of seasonable/perishable products and compliance of anti-dumping measures found by WTO dispute panels to be inconsistent with the WTO rules.

Members also held small group meetings on subsidies issues contained in the Chair’s text. These focussed on the definitional aspects of a ‘subsidy’ including the treatment of a subsidy in countervail investigations, dual pricing and below-cost financing. Discussions on issues not reflected in the Chair’s text included Australia’s subsidy proposals (on export subsidies and the remedy for subsidies found to be prohibited).

Discussions on fisheries subsidies focussed on the need for exceptions to the prohibition on fisheries subsidies for small programs, elements to be included in fisheries management plans and the scope and nature of peer review of fisheries management within the WTO. India and Indonesia circulated a paper to be discussed at the next negotiating session on small program exceptions.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

May

5-6: Committee on Trade and Environment

7-8: General Council

13-23: Rules Weeks

Contact Us:

Trade Policy Section
Office of Trade Negotiations
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
BARTON ACT 0221

Fax: (02) 6261 1858
Email trade.consult@dfat.gov.au

or for more information visit our website or the WTO website.

[More WTO Doha Round Bulletins]