WTO Doha Round Bulletin

December 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.  The Chairman's Summary [Word document] emphasised the broad commitment of WTO Members to the multilateral trading system and the common objective of concluding the Doha Round in 2010.  The Chair also pointed to growing issues on the WTO agenda such as trade and development, trade and the environment, and the linkage between regional trade agreements and the multilateral trading system.  The intervention in the opening plenary session by the Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, can be found here.

Since the Ministerial Conference, Senior Officials have been exploring possible new approaches as a way to build momentum on services and the Doha round more generally.  Services discussions during December looked at ways to progress key issues including domestic regulation, services rules issues and modalities for a Least Developed Countries (LDC) waiver mechanism.  NAMA discussions were constructive and specific, and focused on non-tariff barriers on automotives, electronics, textiles labelling, remanufactured foods and the horizontal mechanism.  Agriculture discussions in December included further work on the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) for developing countries, and consolidation of technical work undertaken during the year. Intensified rules negotiations consolidated the unbracketed draft texts on horizontal subsidies and anti-dumping.  In Intellectual Property discussions, Australia called for a reinvigoration of technical work to examine how the various proposals before the Special Session would be implemented in domestic systems of Members and the effect this would have on trade.

Despite being a year of global economic downturn, 2009 has been a year of renewed commitment to concluding the Doha Round.  At meetings of the Cairns Group in Bali, the OECD in Paris, the G8 in L'Aquilla, APEC in Singapore and the G20 in London and Pittsburgh, leaders and ministers have repeatedly stressed the importance of resisting protectionism and concluding the Round, particularly in light of the boost that renewed trade liberalisation would provide to the world economy. 

Looking ahead and building upon this commitment, Ministers agreed at the Seventh Ministerial Conference on the need to conclude the Doha Round in 2010 and to conduct a stocktaking exercise in the first quarter of the year.  The Senior Officials' process will continue early in the new year.

Agriculture

Agriculture Chair David Walker held the final negotiating session of the year in the week of 7 December.  The December discussions included further work on the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) for developing countries, and consolidation of the considerable technical work undertaken over the past few months in relation to the preparation of Doha Round schedules.

The negotiations will commence again from January 21–25 with further technical discussions on scheduling issues.  The outstanding modalities issues — including the SSM, tariff quota creation and tariff simplification — will be discussed in two blocks of two weeks at the beginning of February and March 2010.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

The final NAMA week for the year took place on 7–11 December 2009 and primarily focused on the proposals to facilitate solutions to non-tariff barriers on automotives, electronics, textiles labelling, remanufactured foods and the horizontal mechanism. Separate sessions were held on each proposal and members were well prepared for the discussions enabling discussions to move from broad general statements to consideration of more specific issues. The discussions were constructive and we anticipate further progress on some of the proposals at the next meeting scheduled for the week of 1 February 2010 in Geneva.

In addition to the formal meetings, Members continued consultations on preference erosion and proposals intended to achieve sectoral tariff liberalisation.

Services

Following the Mr Crean's "services dinner" on the eve of the Seventh WTO Ministerial Conference, Australia has been working with likeminded delegations to exchange views on creative new approaches to raise ambition in the services negotiations.  Since the Ministerial Conference, Senior Officials have been exploring possible new approaches as a way to build momentum on services and the Doha round more generally.

At Senior Officials' discussions during December convened by Ambassador de Mateo (Chair of the negotiating group on services) delegations discussed ways to progress key Doha services issues including 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.  The next round of services negotiations will commence in Geneva from 1 February 2010.  Australia has pressed for substantive market access negotiations with key trading partners, together with further technical work to bridge differences on issues such as domestic regulation and GATS rules.

Intellectual property

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.  The Special Session discusses proposals for an international register to facilitate the protection of geographical indications for wines and spirits.  Such a register is an agreed part of the Doha Round negotiations, and Australia co-sponsors a "Joint Proposal" that meets the mandate for negotiations without upsetting the balance between GIs, trademarks and generic terms in common use. 

Ambassador Tan chaired an informal meeting on 16 December, at which Members introduced suggestions for carrying forward the work of the Special Session in the coming months.   Australia, with others, called for a reinvigoration of detailed technical work to examine how the various proposals before the Special Session would be implemented in domestic systems of Members and the effect this would have on trade.

WTO Director-General Lamy held a sixth informal consultation on the ‘implementation issues' (GI extension and TRIPS/CBD) on Wednesday 9 December.  The meeting discussed measures to address any misappropriation of genetic resources used in inventions and any erroneous grant of patents utilising genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.  These discussions were focused by questions around put forward by the Director-General, based on submissions by the Membership.  There was also some discussion of questions to do with proposals to extend greater protection to geographical indications for products other than wines and spirits.  Discussion of these was incomplete, and will be continued at a future meeting.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

As part of the intensification process, the Rules Negotiating Group held a further negotiating session from 7 to 11 December 2009 covering anti-dumping, horizontal subsidies and fisheries subsidies. 

On anti-dumping, Members examined the issues of causation of injury and anti-circumvention bracketed in the Chair's revised draft text.  The Group completed discussion of all the remaining un-bracketed issues in the Chair's revised draft text.  Members considered draft text on reviews to determine the termination or adjustment of the level of anti-dumping measures and a number of proposed increased transparency provisions.  These latter included the requirement to issue public notices on all anti-dumping actions, procedural aspects of fact-gathering in investigations and a new proposed obligation to require regular review of the anti-dumping practices and policies of twenty Members with the most anti-dumping measures. 

On horizontal subsidies, Members discussed the proposal to clarify rules relating to certain financing of loss-making institutions (so-called below-cost financing).  Members also completed discussion of remaining un-bracketed text in the Chair's revised draft text, in particular the proposed inclusion in the WTO Subsidies Agreement of guidelines on how to attribute subsidy benefits to particular time periods in subsidy investigations.
Consideration by Members of the Chair's roadmap on fisheries subsidies was also completed with discussion on the remaining questions on implementation of new fisheries subsidies disciplines and any transition rules required.

WTO meetings in Geneva

January

21-25 Agriculture Negotiating Session

February

1-5 Services Negotiating Session

1-5  NAMA Negotiating Session

A full schedule of upcoming WTO meetings is available at 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 www.dfat.gov.au or the WTO website www.wto.org

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