Skip to main content

Doha Round

WTO Doha Round Framework Package - July 2004

Agreement on Doha "Framework Package" in Geneva

The General Council of the World Trade Organization agreed on 31
July to adopt a Framework Package that will guide the next phase of the WTO
Doha Round negotiations.

This "Framework Package" put the Round back on track and was a
significant step forward towards concluding the Doha Round
negotiations. The package includes an overarching General Council
Decision and Annexes providing negotiating frameworks for
agriculture, non-agricultural market access, services and trade
facilitation. The General Council Decision also addresses a range
of development issues and includes agreement that three so-called
"Singapore Issues" (competition policy, investment and transparency
in government procurement) will not be included in the Doha
Round.

The "Framework Package" provides a solid basis for Australia to
pursue our objective of maximising market access in agriculture,
services and industrial products and to remove distortions in
international trade that hinder the competitiveness of our
exporters.

Outcome:

Lead-up to the July Package

The "Doha Round" of WTO multilateral trade negotiations was
launched in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001. This was the first Round
to be launched under the new World Trade Organisation, the
successor to the GATT. The Doha Ministerial Declaration mandated negotiations among WTO members to
further progress global trade liberalisation in agriculture,
non-agricultural market access (industrial products) and services.
The Declaration also contained a commitment by WTO members to
address the needs and interests of developing countries in the
negotiations and to resolve a number of concerns raised by
developing countries about difficulties they were experiencing in
implementing the WTO Agreement. At Doha, it was also decided that
work should commence within the WTO on elaborating new disciplines
on what are called the "Singapore Issues" - after the Second WTO
Ministerial Conference in Singapore in December 1996 at which they
were proposed. These issues are trade facilitation (improvements in
customs, transit and border procedures), competition policy,
investment and transparency in government procurement.

Discussions and negotiations then commenced to develop a
framework agreement which would establish the commitments that
members would have to make to meet the goals agreed at Doha. This
agreement would then guide the next phase of more detailed
negotiations on the specific modalities of these commitments. This
process suffered a setback in September 2003 when the Cancún
Ministerial Conference was unable to reach agreement on a text for
this framework.

Following a period of reflection, momentum returned to the Doha
Round in 2004 with re-engagement by major players such as the EU
and US and key developing countries. The Cairns Group, under
Australian leadership, was particularly active in efforts to
re-engage the G20 group of developing countries in seeking common
ground on agricultural reform. The key agriculture players in the
negotiations - Australia, the US, the EU, India and Brazil - also
met a number of times at Ministerial level as the "Five Interested
Parties" to attempt to clarify and resolve as many differences as
possible before the July meeting.

In the margins of the Annual OECD Ministerial Council meeting in
Paris in May 2004, key WTO Ministers decided to make a high-level
commitment to push again for conclusion of a framework package by
the end of July"s General Council meeting in Geneva. APEC Ministers
Responsible for Trade lent their strong support to this goal in
their Declaration from Pucon, Chile in June. Ministers from the
G20, the Africa Union and the G90 group of developing countries
also met in the first half of 2004 and committed themselves to
working towards a July outcome.

Agriculture

The 2001 Doha mandate on agriculture calls for reforms across
three "pillars" substantial improvements in market access,
substantial reductions in domestic support and the phasing out with
a view to total elimination of all export subsidies. The Cairns
Group coalition of 17 agricultural fair traders, chaired by
Australia, played a key role in framing this mandate and has
continued to work since to set the ongoing negotiating agenda and
to press the WTO membership to step up and meet the ambition of the
Doha mandate.

The agriculture negotiating framework (Annex A) secures an
historic commitment to eliminate export subsidies, the worst form
of agricultural subsidy. Important new disciplines have also been
agreed to remove unfair, subsidized competition through
government-supported export credit programs and to set up new
arrangements to manage food aid in ways which does not damage
commercial trade.

Big cuts in the other domestic support provided to farmers by
many wealthy countries have also been foreshadowed. The text
provides for both an overall cut and for reductions in Amber box,
de minimis and blue box support. The EU and the US have agreed, in
the framework, to a down payment reduction of 20% in trade
distorting farm support in the first year after the negotiations
are completed.

The market access part of the framework agreement provides for
substantial tariff reductions leading to substantial access
improvements for all products. This will be negotiated through a
tiered formula which ensures that higher tariffs are subject to
deeper cuts. There is provision for designating some sensitive
products which will not be subject to the full effect of the tariff
reductions. These will be designated using tariff lines and will
still be subject to the requirement of substantial improvement in
market access, through a combination of tariff rate quota expansion
and tariff reductions. The agreement is not as ambitious as
Australia had argued for on market access, but it sets out an
approach to tariff cuts and market opening which is much stronger
than the proposal we were faced with last year in Cancún
.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (Industrial
Products)

The Doha mandate on industrial products provides for
negotiations on non-agricultural market access (NAMA) on reduction
or elimination of tariffs, including by addressing tariff peaks,
high tariffs and tariff escalation, as well as non-tariff barriers.
All products are to be covered with no exclusions. Australia is a
major exporter of industrial products with our ability to increase
such exports dependent upon our ability to penetrate new and
existing markets. This is why we have worked hard in Geneva to
preserve the possibility of an outcome to the Round that meets the
Doha level of ambition.

The non-agricultural products negotiating framework (Annex B)
essentially replicates the text that was presented at the
Cancún Ministerial Meeting last year (known as the Derbez
text). It includes a non-linear (or harmonising) formula approach
to reducing tariffs across-the-board to a similar level, thereby
reducing tariff peaks and tariff escalation as required under the
Doha mandate. There is also the option of supplementing the formula
with sectoral initiatives. However, other provisions lessen the
impact of the formula on tariff reductions, particularly through
extensive flexibility provided to developing countries.

As a number of WTO members had difficulties with the adoption of
the Derbez text unchanged it was agreed that Annex B would be
presented as containing the "elements" for future work on
modalities by the Negotiating Group on Market Access, while
acknowledging that additional negotiations would be required to
reach agreement on the specifics of these elements.

Services

Under the timetable agreed by WTO Trade Ministers at Doha,
members were expected to lodge initial requests for specific
commitments by 30 June 2002, while initial offers were due by 31
March 2003.

Negotiations have been progressing steadily. By April 2004, 42
offers had been made, covering 57 WTO members (the EC offer also
covers the 15 EU members). However the pace of the services
negotiations slowed after Cancún. Annex C of the framework
package reiterates calls on members who have not done so to submit
offers as soon as possible and the General Council Decision calls
for all members to submit improved offers by May 2005.

Australia has a wide breadth of services interests - which range
from professional, financial and education services through to
mining, environmental and private hospital services - reflecting
our status as a vibrant and rapidly growing services exporter, with
geographically diverse trading interests. For this reason, and
because of the growing importance of global services trade,
Australia joined others in successfully pressing for the services
negotiations to be highlighted in the General Council Decision by
giving it a stand-alone paragraph, placing services on the same
footing as the negotiations on agriculture and non-agricultural
market access.

Development Issues

At Doha WTO Ministers agreed to place the needs and interests of
developing country members at the heart of the WTO work programme.
This is addressed in the framework by its extensive recognition and
integration of special and differential treatment, technical
assistance and capacity building. Appropriate S&D provisions
allow developing countries to engage in commitments and further
integrate themselves into the multilateral trading system, while
also providing the flexibility to adjust to the transition this
involves. The General Council Decision reaffirms WTO members"
commitment to the provision of such flexibility and to taking
developing country concerns into consideration in the future
negotiations on modalities for agricultural and non-agricultural
market access. The framework package also recognises the particular
difficulties of least developed countries (LDCs) - they have
effectively been exempted from making any new commitments under the
Doha Round for agriculture or industrials.

However Australia considers that the framework agreement most
directly addresses the needs of developing countries by encouraging
economic reform, by creating the conditions for global improvements
in market access - particularly in agriculture, industrial products
and services - and through removing agricultural subsidies in
developed countries which negatively impact on the competitiveness
of developing country products.

Trade Facilitation

The General Council Decision, by explicit consensus, launches
negotiations on trade facilitation. Annex D provides the modalities
for negotiations that will be aimed at improving the efficiency of
the global movement of goods, for example through improved and
streamlined customs and border control procedures.

Annex D also recognises the particular difficulties faced by
developing countries in having the financial and technical capacity
to undertake such improvements and includes commitment by developed
country members to provide technical assistance and support for
capacity building.

Last Updated: 8 January 2013
Back to top