World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

May 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

G20 Leaders in London last month recognised the importance and urgency of concluding the Doha Round as soon as possible and, in particular, of using all relevant international meetings to drive progress in the negotiations. Australia and other WTO Members are looking at a number of opportunities for Trade Ministers to meet over the next few months to re-engage on the Round. Detailed technical work by senior officials is continuing in Geneva across all sectors of the negotiations.

Re-appointment of Pascal Lamy as WTO Director-General

On 30 April 2009, Mr Pascal Lamy was re-appointed as Director-General of the WTO for a second four-year term, commencing on 1 September 2009. Mr Lamy made clear in his statements that the conclusion of the Doha Round remained his top priority. His other priorities were progress on regional trade agreements and rules of origin and improvements in surveillance of Members’ existing obligations.

The Minister for Trade, Mr Simon Crean welcomed Mr Lamy’s re-appointment as providing "some necessary and important continuity of leadership for the Doha Round negotiations". Australia will continue to work closely with Mr Lamy and WTO Members to finish the negotiations. Mr Crean said at "this time of global financial crisis, the WTO is a vitally important institution for maintaining trade flows and leading the fight against protectionism." He also noted Australia’s full support for the WTO’s important initiative of monitoring trade and trade-related measures, which was endorsed by G20 Leaders last month. The WTO has been monitoring such measures taken by Members since the beginning of the global economic crisis.

Agriculture

New Zealand Ambassador Dr David Walker was formally elected as the new Chair of the agriculture negotiations on 22 April, replacing Crawford Falconer. Dr Walker advised he would hold informal consultations with a range of negotiating groups in the first few weeks of his term as Chair, after which he intended to convene an informal meeting to map out a forward work program for the agriculture negotiations.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

Technical work is continuing in Geneva on the NAMA sectoral tariff elimination proposals. Preliminary discussions among key Members have been held in the past month on chemicals, forest products, electronics and industrial materials. Sponsors of these sectorals are using varying approaches to try to demonstrate how WTO Members could benefit from their implementation.

Services

There was a clear appetite among the more ambitious Members (including Australia) to re-establish momentum on services at the April round of services negotiations in Geneva. This included setting out a forward work program that could be used in the medium term to promote market access outcomes. In addition, a recurring theme during the negotiations was for Members not to revert to protectionist measures in the current economic climate.

Members reaffirmed their commitment to an early outcome on the Doha Round. They were keen to ensure signals made at the July 2008 services ministerial signalling conference were recorded to ensure they were captured in future revised offers. There was also strong support for continued technical work, such as disciplines on domestic regulation and rules on services subsidies.

For the first time since December 2007, sectoral groups reconvened to explore possible approaches for future work. Australia chaired the group on professional services (combining legal, architecture and engineering services) and proposed the establishment of a new sectoral group on accounting services.

A feature of the April round was a financial services workshop marking the tenth anniversary of the Fifth Protocol of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The Fifth Protocol provided for new and improved commitments on financial services than those negotiated during the Uruguay Round. A strong theme underpinning many presentations was the need for robust financial services regulation to keep financial services markets open.

Members agreed to a further round of services negotiations in late June to maintain momentum, and to ensure services make a strong contribution to a balanced Doha outcome.

Intellectual Property

On 8 April, WTO Director-General Lamy held a second informal consultation on two issues whose relevance to the Doha Round is contested, namely extension of the higher level of protection given to wines and spirits geographical indications (GIs) to GIs for other products, and the requirement to disclose the source of any genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge used in inventions. We reported on the first consultation in the April 2009 Monthly Bulletin.

The consultation offered proponents an opportunity to outline their objectives on the issues. Members with concerns about these issues, including Australia, raised them in the consultation. The next such consultation is scheduled for 13 May. Discussion will likely focus on technical questions.

Trade Facilitation

The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation (NGTF) continued its steady progress by meeting in Geneva from 27 April to 1 May (the previous meeting was 23-27 February 2009). This NGTF focused on continuing discussions on textual negotiations of Members’ proposals, which should eventually form the basis of a new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. The aim of such an agreement is to expedite the movement, clearance and release of goods. Texts negotiated in this last meeting included proposals on border agency cooperation, the use of international standards and the use of customs brokers. Also addressed during the NGTF were sessions on Special and Differential Treatment, Technical Assistance and Capacity Building.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

No new developments.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

11-15 May - Rules Negotiating session
26-27 May - General Council

A full schedule of upcoming WTO meetings is available at http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news_e.htm#whatson

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

or for more information visit our website (http://www.dfat.gov.au) or the WTO website (http://www.wto.org/).

[More WTO Doha Round Bulletins]