WTO Doha Round Bulletin

January 2010

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

At the Seventh WTO Ministerial Conference held in Geneva in December, Trade Ministers agreed on the need to conclude the Doha Round in 2010 and to conduct a stocktaking exercise in the first quarter of the year. Officials have been working towards these goals throughout January, including through Senior Officials meetings and Agriculture and Services clusters in Geneva.

Trade Ministers met in the margins of the World Economic Forum held from 27-31 January in Davos, Switzerland, where they continued discussions on a range of outstanding issues. Ministers agreed on the need for a continued senior officials process to narrow the gaps in the negotiations and the importance of Ministerial engagement and continued political will in the first half of the year ahead of the planned stocktake meeting in March.

Agriculture

Negotiating sessions for agriculture recommenced in Geneva from January 21-25 with further technical discussions on issues relating to the preparation of Doha Round schedules. These technical discussions will continue in February and March.

Agriculture Chair David Walker is also holding discussions on outstanding modalities during two blocks of two weeks in February and March. Issues to be considered include the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), tariff quota creation, and tariff simplification.

Services

Australia is continuing to play an active role in the WTO services negotiations. The cluster of services negotiations taking place from 1-11 February in Geneva will allow negotiators the first opportunity this year to discuss their respective market access requests and offers, both at the bilateral and plurilateral levels. Another important element of these talks will be the discussion on domestic regulation disciplines in services trade. Australia has been working on a proposal in this area, which it has co-sponsored with a number of other like-minded WTO Members.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property issues played a modest role in the WTO Ministerial in December 2009, which focussed more broadly on the multilateral trading system and the current global economic environment. Ministers extended a moratorium on “non-violation and situation” complaints under the TRIPS Agreement. Generally, the WTO dispute settlement mechanism can be invoked if a Member can show it has been deprived of an expected benefit because of another Member’s action, or because of any other situation that exists. Members have not reached a consensus on whether these non-violation and situation complaints should be available in relation to the TRIPS Agreement.

On Friday 5 February the TRIPS Special Session will meet for an informal open-ended meeting to discuss the organisation of future work in the session. The Special Session discusses proposals for an international register to facilitate the protection of geographical indications for wines and spirits.

On Friday 12 February the TRIPS Council will meet for informal consultations on the implementation of WTO's Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

The next meeting of the TRIPS Council will take place on 2-3 March 2010. It is expected that the meeting will continue to focus on public health, genetic resources and technology transfer issues. The TRIPS Special Session will follow the TRIPS Council on 4 March 2010.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The Rules Negotiating Group met on 25-26 January 2010 to discuss horizontal subsidies and fisheries subsidies.

On horizontal subsidies, Members considered two proposals on countervailing duty investigations relating to pre-initiation consultations and the treatment of new subsidy allegations in the course of an on-going investigation. The proposals did not attract wide-spread support although many Members were prepared to consider improvements to increase transparency in proceedings and to draw on existing transparency-related proposals for improvements to anti-dumping investigations.

On fisheries subsidies, Members sought detailed clarification on a proposal on special and differential treatment for developing countries. The proposal sought an exemption from the proposed prohibition on subsidies for vessel construction and operating costs for developing country Members with a percentage share of world NAMA trade not more than 0.1 per cent and with a percentage share of global marine wild capture not more than 1 per cent. Members also discussed the concept of specificity of subsidies in the context of fisheries subsidies. Several Members noted the importance of not undermining the current framework of the WTO Subsidies Agreement.

WTO meetings in Geneva

February 2010

March 2010

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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