WTO Doha Round Bulletin

November 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  

The WTO’s Seventh Ministerial Conference took place from 30 November to 2 December in Geneva, bringing together nearly 3000 delegates representing all 153 WTO Members and 56 Observers. While the purpose of this meeting was not to hold detailed Doha negotiations, Ministers agreed on the need to conclude the Doha Round in 2010 and to conduct a stocktaking exercise in the first quarter of next year.  It was also agreed that a Senior Officials’ process would continue early next year to map the road towards a 2010 conclusion.  The Chairman’s Summary can be found on the WTO website at http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news09_e/mn09a_02dec09_e.htm.

Trade Minister, Mr Crean, in his Intervention to the Plenary Meeting of the Conference, called for early political engagement in 2010 to conclude the Doha Round.  He said concluding the Round was the essential task in 2010 because trade was an economic stimulus and would provide the most effective insurance against reversion to protectionism.  He also emphasised the vital link between trade and development, referring to Australia’s significant increase to the WTO’s Aid for Trade trust fund, as well as its contribution to the Advisory Centre for WTO Law. At the conclusion of the Conference, Mr Crean said we need “more than just a stock take of progress next year. We need genuine engagement to move beyond aspirational statements and tackle the hard issues. Our officials must also work harder to narrow the differences and set the platform for Ministers to come together again in coming months."

The Conference provided an important opportunity to review the work program of the WTO, to confirm commitment to this vital institution, and to discuss new issues the WTO would need to address in coming years – including energy and food security, the environment, development and continuing trade reform.  Further information and details on the Conference, including statements made by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, Mr Crean and other Ministers can be found on the WTO website.

Agriculture 

In the margins of the Conference, Mr Crean chaired a meeting of Cairns Group Ministers on 30 November, in the lead up to the Ministerial Conference.  Cairns Group Ministers called for the completion of agriculture modalities by early next year, to help achieve a successful conclusion to the Doha Round in 2010.  The Cairns Group communiqué can be found at www.cairnsgroup.org.

Agriculture Chair David Walker held further negotiating sessions on the outstanding modalities issues in November, following the sessions in September and October.  The November discussions included consideration of one of the key outstanding issues in the negotiations, the Special Safeguard Mechanism for developing countries.  All outstanding issues have now been considered during the September-November period, with further meetings scheduled for the week of 7 December.  During November, the Chair also held another series of technical discussions relating to the preparation of Doha Round schedules.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) 

The final NAMA week for the year will take place from 7 to 11 December 2009, with consultations with relevant members on issues such as country-specific flexibilities and preference erosion.  Members are continuing to drive discussions on proposals for sectoral liberalisation and to seek outcomes on the Non-Tariff Barrier (NTB) proposals.  

Services  

Mr Crean hosted a successful services dinner on 29 November before start of the Ministerial Conference for selected fellow ministers to exchange views on the state of play on services in the Doha Round and examine creative new approaches to raise the level of ambition in the services negotiations.  Participants instructed senior officials to explore possible new approaches and feed these considerations into their ongoing deliberations.  

WTO bilateral services market access negotiations in Geneva from 2 to 13 November demonstrated that gaining agreement across the WTO Membership on what exactly needed to be done to intensify work on the services negotiations – as directed by ministers and senior officials – will be difficult, although the tone of some of Australia’s market access bilateral negotiations was positive. 

Senior officials discussed the services negotiations at a meeting convened by Services Chair Ambassador de Mateo on 24 November.  Topics included negotiations on disciplines on domestic regulation, services rules issues (particularly an emergency safeguard mechanism and rules on services subsidies) and modalities for a Least Developed Countries (LDC) waiver mechanism to allow WTO Members to offer preferential market access for LDCs.  Finalising disciplines on domestic regulation remains a key interest of many WTO members. 

An Australian-led proposal on domestic regulations received widespread support, and discussions in the Working Party on Domestic Regulation (WPDR) were the most constructive for some time.  Australia will remain active on the issue of development of domestic regulation disciplines at formal and informal meetings convened by the WPDR Chair Misako Takahashi as she continues to move the negotiations forward.  The focus of attention is turning to the inclusion of a necessity test – the balance to be struck between the right to regulate and that regulation (of qualification and licensing procedures and requirements) be no more burdensome than necessary. 

Intellectual Property 

Special Session Chair Ambassador Trevor Clarke's (Barbados) report was presented to the Membership at the formal session on 27 November.  Two informal Special Sessions of the TRIPS Council were held for consultation purposes on the draft of the Chair's report.  The Chair’s report summarised the work to date under his leadership over the past year and noted the remaining key issues: consequences/legal effects of registration and participation; notification and registration; and other issues (fees, costs, administrative burdens). 

The Chair’s suggestions on a way forward to concluding negotiations on the register, included that: a set of ‘guiding principles’ be used; that criteria be developed to determine which Members would participate in a register (instead of being strictly voluntary or mandatory); and more ideas were needed on special and differential treatment.  The Chair usefully re-emphasised that the Special Session should continue to be confined to discussions on the register only, as the Special Session is not mandated to discuss the other ‘implementation issues’ (GI extension and TRIPS/CBD) on which the EC and others would like to tie an outcome on the register. 

Mr Clarke's term as Special Session Chair concluded on 30 November, as he will be taking up a position in the World Intellectual Property Organization.  On 8 December, TRIPS Council Chair, Ambassador Karen Tan (Singapore) was appointed Chair of the Special Session on a pro tempore basis until new officers are appointed to the WTO in February 2010. 

WTO Director-General Lamy called a sixth informal consultation on the ‘implementation issues’ (GI extension and TRIPS/CBD) for Wednesday 9 December.  The meeting will focus on a series of questions put forward by the Director-General and based on submissions by the Membership. 

Trade Facilitation 

The Trade Facilitation meetings held from 9 to 12 November saw WTO Members succeed in bringing issues into a single draft text for an Agreement on Trade Facilitation, although significant differences still exist on the details of that text.  Work aimed at resolving these issues will continue over the coming months prior to the next meeting of the Negotiating Group, scheduled for 8 to 12 February 2010.  Australia is supporting a positive outcome on advance rulings, which have proven to be a major contributor to facilitating trade for Australian importers. 

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies 

The Rules Negotiating Group held a further negotiating session from 26 to 30 October 2009 and covered anti-dumping, horizontal subsidies, anti-dumping/countervailing duty transposition and fisheries subsidies.   

Rules Chair Guillermo Valles-Galmes increased the momentum on discussion of his December 2008 revised draft text with the clear goal to complete this by the end of the year.  On anti-dumping, Members examined further definitional aspects relating to the product scope of an anti-dumping investigation, currently a bracketed textual issue in the Chair’s draft.  Members also worked through un-bracketed issues including the initiation and evidentiary standards of anti-dumping investigations where there appeared to some, if not broad, support for some less controversial issues. 

There was also increased engagement but no apparent emerging consensus on horizontal subsidies issues.  Members focussed on the Chair’s revised draft text on regulated prices and input subsidies.  Members also considered a proposal to allow developing countries to continue to have or reintroduce export subsidies once export competitiveness in a product is reached. 

Members completed consideration of the textual differences between the current Anti-dumping Agreement and the Subsidies Agreement, identifying areas of the texts which could be considered for possible harmonisation.  

In discussion of the Chair’s roadmap on fisheries subsidies, most Members agreed on some form of fisheries management as a condition for recourse to fisheries subsidies.  Views differed on whether there should be additional conditionalities attached to the general exemptions from the prohibition and for special and differential treatment for developing countries.  Differences also remained on reviews of a Member’s fisheries management, transparency (notification) provisions, and the details and role of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and other international fisheries organisations.  The Chair intends to conclude discussion of his roadmap at the December negotiating session.

Trade and Environment

Mr Crean used the Ministerial Conference to call for acceleration of work towards an agreement on liberalisation of environmental goods and services.  Mr Crean said we need to ensure the WTO remains responsive to the evolving challenges facing the multilateral system.  He said, “An outcome that liberalises trade in both environmental goods and services will be an important contribution to Doha and ensuring trade contributes to tackling climate change.”

SPS Measures 

The 46th session of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Committee) was held in Geneva from 27 – 29 October 2009.  Key issues discussed at the meeting include Special and Differential Treatment; the Third Review of the SPS Agreement; Ad-Hoc consultations; Private Standards; and Control, Inspection and Approved Procedures. The session also discussed a number of specific trade concerns, including the trade effects of H1N1 Pandemic 2009, the uncertainties around the implementation of Ukrainian Order 149 and the lack of a maximum residue limit for the growth hormone ractopamine due to objections (principally of the European Union and China) in Codex.  Although not finalised, the session made good progress on finalising the Third Review of the SPS Agreement and work on Private Standards continues.  The next meeting of the SPS Committee will be held in March 2010. 

WTO Meetings in Geneva 

7-11 December NAMA negotiations

7-11 December Agriculture negotiations

7-11 December Rules negotiations

14-16 December Services Meetings

14-16 December Senior Officials’ Meetings

17-18 December General Council Meeting 

More information

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

Email: trade.consult@dfat.gov.au

WTO website: http://www.wto.org/.

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