WTO Doha Round Bulletin
This bulletin, summarising key WTO Doha Round-related activities, is issued by the Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The stocktake of the WTO Doha Round conducted by Senior Officials in Geneva at the end of March made it clear that negotiations are further from conclusion than in July 2008, and that further work is required. However, while Director-General Pascal Lamy told the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) on 26 March 2010 that "there is certainly disappointment that we are not closer to our goal", he went on to say that he has not "detected any defeatism." In fact, the stocktake revealed an ongoing commitment by Members to conclude the Round, given its importance as a stimulus for growth and development and because it is critical to the strength of the WTO as an institution.
Director-General Lamy put forward a process for taking the Round forward, which was widely endorsed by Members. This includes negotiating groups and the TNC anchoring and leading the process. It also includes more frequent meetings in groups, bilaterally and in the TNC, as well as more horizontal discussions on the shape of the package.
Over coming months, there are a number of opportunities for ministerial engagement on Doha issues. The Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting chaired by the Minister for Trade, Simon Crean and hosted by Uruguay in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from 19 to 21 April will be the first opportunity for Ministers to meet after the stocktake. Cairns Group Ministers, as well as Ministers from the US, EU, China, India, Japan, Egypt and Mexico, along with Mr Lamy and Agriculture Chair David Walker, have been invited. In the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris, Mr Crean will chair an informal gathering of Ministers responsible for the Doha Round. These meetings will provide a useful opportunity to further discuss the Doha Round and the next steps in the Doha negotiations.
Negotiating sessions for agriculture continued in Geneva in March with further technical discussions on both outstanding modalities issues and data/templates required for the preparation of Doha Round schedules. The focus of Agriculture Chair David Walker’s consultations was on the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), with discussions focusing on analytical contributions on elements of the possible architecture. Further discussions will be required after the March stocktake to continue to work towards agreement.
On 22 March, Mr Walker reported to the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee on the progress of the agriculture negotiations as part of the Doha stocktake process. He reported that while he had held consultations on ten categories of issues bracketed or otherwise annotated in the draft modalities from December 2008, it was his view that Members have not been in a position to substantively resolve matters.
The Negotiating Group on Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) met in the week of 15 to 19 March 2010 to continue discussions on non-tariff barriers (NTBs). The Chair convened small group discussions on autos, electronics, textile labelling, remanufactured goods and horizontal proposals. The discussions were useful in identifying outstanding technical issues and providing greater understanding of members’ regulatory regimes. The next meeting is scheduled for 17 May 2010.
The Committee on Rules of Origin met in the week of 22 to 26 March 2010. The meetings again highlighted the gulf that divides members in reaching an outcome on the outstanding issues on the Harmonised Work Programme. The new Chair of the Committee has undertaken to consult with members before outlining an approach to taking the work programme forward.
The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation (NGTF) met in the week of 8 to 12 March, where Members continued their consideration of a draft consolidated negotiating text. Much work remains to be done on the text and over coming weeks Members have been asked to revisit all provisions of the text with a view to cleaning it up. The next meeting of the NGTF is scheduled for 31 May to 4 June.
Australia sought to ensure the March stocktake clearly reflected the fact that services offers currently on the table as part of the Doha Round package were inadequate, and that more needed to be done to raise ambition. Australia led efforts amongst services demandeurs to make clear and unequivocal statements about the lack of progress on the services market access negotiations since the July 2008 ministerial signalling conference.
Similarly, Australia took a high profile in conveying strong messages about the importance of the negotiation of disciplines on domestic regulation to ensure market access commitments were not undermined by more burdensome than necessary regulation.
On 22 March, the Chairman of the Services Negotiations report to the Trade Negotiations Committee on the status of the services negotiations reflected in large part Australia’s assessment. The Chair noted there had been little or no significant progress in the negotiations since July 2008. Gaps in sectoral coverage and levels of commitment needed to be filled for Members to be satisfied with the services market access negotiations.
While market access negotiations had stalled, the Chair noted that work on technical issues was progressing. There has been increased constructive engagement on developing disciplines on domestic regulation. Australia is active in these negotiations, coordinating a small group of like-minded Members seeking to raise ambition. On GATS Rules, the Chair noted that a work program for the exchange of information on services subsidies had been agreed. Work on developing a waiver mechanism to give LDC preferential treatment in the services negotiations is receiving strong support from the WTO Membership. His full report is available on the WTO website.
The TRIPS Council met on 2 March 2010. Patent disclosure of applications using genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, and access and benefit sharing were discussed on familiar lines. India and Brazil registered concern over the effect of EC border measures on generic pharmaceuticals.
The TRIPS Special Session for a multilateral register on wines and spirits GIs was held on 4 March 2010. Mr Darlington Mwape (Zambia) was confirmed as the new Chair of the TRIPS Special Session. He outlined a process for forward work of the Special Session. The meeting will continue technical discussions on the basis of four clusters: legal effect, participation, administrative burdens and special and differential treatment as a contribution to this work. Australia shared a case-study of how a multilateral register on the lines of the Joint Proposal would work in Australia.
WTO Director-General Lamy held his seventh informal consultation on the implementation issues of GI-extension and TRIPS/CBD on 5 March 2010. Discussion focused on GI-extension, with a short exchange on future work. Members remained divided on the costs and benefits of GI-extension. Australia and likemindeds reiterated the view that no problem warranting extension had been identified by demandeurs. On 12 March, Mr Lamy reported to the broader membership on the consultations.
The Rules Negotiating Group met on 2 to 4 March 2010. This meeting finished the latest cycle of negotiations based on systematically discussing issues in the Chair’s revised draft text of December 2008. The session focussed on the remaining, most sensitive anti-dumping issues of zeroing, a public interest test, the lesser duty rule and sunset reviews. These issues are square-bracketed in the revised draft text as views have remained sharply divided since the Chair’s first draft text of November 2007. While Members’ views remained polarised on these issues, Members engaged constructively and analysed the various possible approaches, explaining both the basis for positions and the technical implications of the proposals.
WTO Meetings in Geneva
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