World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

June 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 (industrial products or NAMA) negotiating groups released revised modalities texts on 19 May and the services Chair released a revised services text on 26 May. The Chair of the rules negotiating group released a working document on trade rules on 28 May. Officials have been examining the texts in Geneva since 27 May.

APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade issued a strong statement in support of a successful conclusion to the Round at their meeting in Arequipa, Peru on 31 May. The Minister for Trade, Mr Crean said he was encouraged by the overwhelming consensus within APEC to support the Multilateral Trading System in recognition of its critical role in raising living standards around the globe, and in the Asia-Pacific specifically.

Mr Crean hosted an informal meeting of key Trade Ministers on 5 June in Paris in the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting, which also included attendance by the WTO Director-General. Importantly, there was agreement by Ministers to intensify efforts in Geneva to work towards a Ministerial Meeting as soon as possible.

Agriculture

Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer released a revised agriculture modalities text on 19 May 2008. The text has narrowed down the number of outstanding issues and reflects some of the progress that has been made in recent months. There are some areas that need further work, particularly in the market access pillar. The Chair reconvened discussions in Geneva in the week beginning 26 May. It is possible that a further revision of the modalities text will be prepared when those discussions have concluded.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

NAMA Chair Don Stephenson released a revised NAMA modalities text on 19 May. The text contains many options and square brackets, reflecting the continuing lack of convergence in WTO Members’ positions on a number of issues. On the issue of the tariff-cutting formula, the text allows for the possibility of slightly increased ambition for developed countries. Developing countries could choose to apply a more ambitious formula coefficient in return for being able to use flexibilities to shield a greater portion of tariffs from full cuts, a less ambitious coefficient in return for no flexibilities, or a mid-range coefficient for ‘standard’ flexibilities. The text also includes possible additional flexibilities for particular developing countries, including those in customs unions.

Reactions to the text have been mixed, with key players showing few signs of movement from previous positions. A focus of discussions among senior officials has been the additional flexibilities proposed by Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) for developing countries in customs unions such as Mercosur.

Services

Services Chair Fernando de Mateo released a revised services text on 26 May. The text will help guide the services negotiations. It usefully captures areas of agreement amongst the WTO Membership. However, Australia’s ambitious language on market access is in square brackets. We will continue to push for a commercially meaningful outcome on services for Australian services exporters.

Given the importance of services, Australia is also actively pursuing an early ministerial signalling conference on services, which would be held at the same time that negotiators finalise modalities on agriculture and industrial products. Developed countries wanting an ambitious outcome on services, such as Australia, will need to show flexibility by providing clear-cut signals that respond to developing country requests.

Australia continues to engage in bilateral and plurilateral sectoral negotiations. During the last round of senior officials services negotiations in Geneva on 5-9 May, Australia conducted bilateral meetings with eight key markets – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, China, India, Chinese Taipei and the Republic of Korea. The delegation pursued both specific bilateral market access interests and details of possible signals to be made at the signalling conference.

The Services Council subsidiary bodies – the Working Party on GATS Rules, the Committee on Specific Commitments and the Committee on Trade in Financial Services - will be meeting on 3 June, and the Working Party on Domestic Regulation on 16 June, with the principal objective of electing new committees, although other issues may be discussed.

Intellectual Property

The next formal meeting of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council will take place on 17 June. It is expected that Members will again discuss issues surrounding biodiversity, such as the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). There may be questions to Vietnam regarding its TRIPS implementation legislation, as well as further discussion of technology transfer and Least Developed Country (LDC) Members’ priority needs for technical cooperation and capacity building.

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. 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 (JOB(07)193). Australia has indicated its broad support for the proposal and is currently conducting detailed product analysis. An informal meeting of the CTESS took place on 5-6 May. We are currently conducting industry consultations to develop our approach to the environmental goods and services negotiations.

Trade Facilitation

The Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group (NGTF) met on 26-30 May to discuss the latest proposals under GATT articles V, VIII and X, and on customs cooperation. The group discussed the proposal by Australia, Canada, Turkey and the US on advance customs rulings (TN/TF/W/153), and a revised proposal by Korea, Singapore and Thailand on a single window for one-time submission of traders’ documentation (TN/TF/W/138/Rev.2). On customs cooperation, there was discussion of alternative proposals by India, South Africa and Sri Lanka (TN/TF/W/146/Rev.1) and Canada (TF/Tf/W/154). Negotiations continued on the issue of special and differential treatment for developing countries and on technical assistance and capacity building support.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The main focus of discussions of the Rules Negotiating Group (13-20 May) was fisheries subsidies. Members examined a joint proposal from India, Indonesia and China on special and differential treatment for developing countries which proposed a significant expansion of the exceptions for subsidies for artisanal and small-scale fishing, and the weakening of fisheries management requirements and of the notification and surveillance requirements for fisheries subsidies programs. Discussions also continued on provisions within the Chair’s draft text, namely the category of fisheries subsidies causing adverse effects and technical assistance for developing countries to meet the new fisheries subsidies disciplines.

Members also held small group meetings on subsidies issues contained in the Chair’s text. These included continued discussions on subsidy practices such as dual pricing and below-cost financing, as well as discussion of proposals from Brazil on export credits and on market benchmarks for the calculation of ‘benefit’. Members also discussed a proposal on export competitiveness from India, Egypt, Kenya and Pakistan seeking scope for developing countries to continue and/or recommence providing export subsidies in certain circumstances.

In plenary discussion on anti-dumping Members examined a paper from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) and African Groups which seeks enhanced rights for developing countries in taking anti-dumping and defending anti-dumping cases, as well as seeking technical assistance for undertaking such trade remedies.

Rules Chair Guillermo Valles-Galmes’s issued a working document on 28 May. The document preserves the Chair’s draft text on anti-dumping, subsidies and fisheries subsidies while providing a thoughtful, balanced reflection on Members’ contributions and their reactions to the Chair’s earlier text.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

June

3 June: The Working Party on GATS Rules, the Committee on Specific Commitments and the Committee on Trade in Financial Services (Services)

16 June: The Working Party on Domestic Regulation (Services)

17 June: Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Council

23 June: The Rules Negotiating Group (in the week beginning 23 June)

Contact Us:

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

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

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