World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

March 2009

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

Protectionism and the WTO Doha Round of trade negotiations will be on the agenda at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in London on 2 April. It is expected that Leaders will reiterate the importance of countries avoiding any slide towards protectionism. G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

In Geneva, the Chairs of the negotiating groups and officials are progressing the Doha Round’s technical work.

Visit to Australia by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy’s visit to Australia this month (2-4 March) provided a timely opportunity for government, industry representatives (including the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia) and the ACTU to discuss the importance of trade and the WTO in the current global economic climate. Mr Lamy met with the Prime Minister and the Trade Minister, Mr Crean and made public addresses to the Lowy Institute and the ABARE Outlook 2009 Conference. Mr Lamy stressed the importance of finalising the Doha Round, to counteract any further slide towards protectionism and increase confidence in the global economy. Mr Lamy also recognised the leading role Australia has been playing in the Doha negotiations.

The visit provided a good opportunity to discuss the WTO’s wider response to the global financial crisis, including the mechanism it has established to monitor protectionist actions by Members, an initiative welcomed by Australia. Mr Lamy’s visit attracted significant media interest, including appearances on ABC Breakfast Radio (Fran Kelly) and ABC television "Lateline" (Tony Jones), where Mr Lamy reinforced messages about concluding the Doha Round as further insurance against protectionism.

Agriculture

After meeting with the Cairns Group in late January, Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer continues to consult with various groups on the next steps in the agriculture negotiations.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

NAMA Chair Luzius Wasescha has continued consultations with Members on sectoral initiatives for tariff liberalization and on non-tariff barrier (NTB) proposals. Some proponents of sectoral initiatives are proposing to undertake further in-depth tariff and trade analysis, in order to clarify outcomes for individual countries choosing to join particular sectorals and facilitate more detailed discussion with potential participants. The Chair plans to hold a meeting on NTBs on 19 March to coincide with a TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) Committee meeting, with possible participation by TBT experts.

Services

Members continue to consider the shape of services negotiations and the services forward work program for 2009. Services Chair Fernando de Mateo recently convened Heads of Delegation in Geneva to discuss suggestions for the future work of the services negotiations. He said the services text agreed by Members in July 2008 – at the time of the ministerial signalling conference on services – provided a road map which would form the basis for Members’ ongoing work. Australia stressed that it was necessary to engage in services in as positive and productive a way as possible at this juncture, and agreed that the road map provided a sound basis on which to proceed.

Separately, the Chair of the Services Council has undertaken consultations to determine a work program for regular sessions of the Council in parallel to the Doha negotiations. Australia supports proposals for the WTO Secretariat to update sectoral papers – which date from the late 1990s – and a reinvigorated notification process in accordance with GATS disciplines (eg Article III Transparency). We also recognise that subsidiary bodies can engage constructively to find common ground in relation to domestic regulation disciplines and rules on services safeguards.

Intellectual Property

The first TRIPS Council meeting for 2009 was held on 3 March. Discussions proceeded along their usual lines with some Members advancing the case for necessity of an amendment to the TRIPS Agreement to require that patent holders disclose the source of any genetic resources used in their invention. In order to ensure consistency between TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), other Members queried whether an amendment to the TRIPS Agreement was the best way to approach this issue. Australia noted that the TRIPS Agreement and the CBD are already consistent.

Further discussion focused on the proposed link by some Members between a TRIPS-CBD amendment, the existing mandate for negotiating the establishment of a multilateral register for geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits, and extending such a register to include products others than wine and spirits. Several Members, including Australia, expressed concern that this “artificial parallelism” pre-judges the outcomes of any negotiation, including on issues for which there is no mandate.

There was also discussion between Members about the recent detention by Dutch authorities of a shipment of generic medicines in transit from India to Brazil, on grounds of an alleged patent violation in the country of transit. Discussions centred on the compatibility of such action with GATT (Article 5(a)), and with the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. Other discussion concerned technical assistance provided to developing countries in the context of technology transfer, including comments by Members that such assistance should be demand driven and focus on small and medium enterprises.

On 2 March, an informal meeting was called ahead of the TRIPS Special Session on 5 March. The EC proposal for the multilateral register for GIs for wines and spirits was discussed at the formal meeting and will remain controversial, given lack of information on the details of the proposal, and the continued insistence that discussions on the register be linked to GI extension and TRIPS/CBD.

Trade and Environment

No new developments.

Trade Facilitation

The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation (NGTF) met from 23 to 27 February 2009 and continued textual negotiations, led by NGTF Chair Eduardo Ernesto Sperisen-Yurt, on new and revised proposals covering various elements relating to the Group’s mandate. There were also negotiations, facilitated by a ‘Friend of the Chair’, on Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) and Technical Assistance and Capacity Building for Developing Countries. Discussions on S&DT focused on the timing and type of commitments that developing countries would be required to schedule under a Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Australia and the United States co-hosted a workshop on Advance Rulings on 24 February as part of the Trade Facilitation week of negotiations. The workshop was successful in highlighting the benefits of providing binding advice to traders, in advance of trade taking place, on such issues as tariff classification. The Advance Rulings proposal has broad support from Members.

The NGTF Chair summed up the week's meeting by noting that momentum continues and there was excellent engagement in several areas which had previously seen little debate. The Chair signalled his intention to dedicate time to the issue of international standards at the next NGTF session, scheduled for the week of 27 April.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

A negotiating session was held in February 2009 - the first session since May 2008 and since the December 2008 release of Rules Chair Guillermo Valles-Galmes’s revised texts on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies and conceptual roadmap on fisheries subsidies. On anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies, most Members, including Australia, believe the ‘bottom-up’ approach (involving the Chair identifying those areas where he believes there is some emerging consensus) on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies to be a step in the right direction. The Chair’s revised texts also identified those areas where there remain widely conflicting views where he is not in a position to propose compromise positions. While the process for reengagement remains unclear, the Chair assured Members that no issue in the draft text would necessarily be incorporated in a revised draft text. Equally, the bottom-up approach was not a ‘closed universe’ – issues left out of his text will be discussed in due time.

On fisheries subsidies, there was general consensus that the roadmap (which poses a series of questions to Members on all the provisions of the Chair’s November 2007 draft text) should be used as the basis for moving negotiations forward. There was significant, thought not universal, support that the November 2007 draft text should remain on the table. Australia continues to believe that this draft text is a good basis for negotiation and its ambitions should not be wound back.

The focus of the next session of the Rules Negotiating Group (to be held at the end of March 2009) will be on fisheries subsidies.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

March-April

30 March- 1 April: Rules Negotiating Session – fisheries subsides

27 April- 1 May: Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

Full schedule of upcoming WTO meetings

Contact Us:

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

Fax: (02) 6261 1858

or email trade.consult@dfat.gov.au

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