World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

Week ending 23 July 2004 (Issue 2004/24)

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

Negotiations commence on draft July framework in Geneva

Chair of the WTO General Council, Oshima released a draft July framework text on 16 July. Mr Vaile welcomed the release of the text as "a constructive effort to forge a way ahead in the Doha Round and to bring together the range of interests of the 147 WTO Members."

Delegations in Geneva will be working round the clock over the next week to finalise an agreed framework text by the end of the General Council meeting commencing 27 July. A redrafted text, based on discussions and negotiations that have taken place this week, is expected to be released after Monday 26 July for further negotiation before the General Council meeting.

Securing a text on agriculture that meets the ambition of the mandate set by WTO Ministers on all three pillars of the Doha mandate - market access, export subsidies and domestic support is Australia's highest priority. Mr Vaile particularly welcomed the clear commitment in the draft agriculture framework text to negotiate an end date for all agricultural export subsidies "This has long been an important objective for Australia and the Cairns Group" Mr Vaile said. "It will be an important signal that all WTO Members are ready to follow through with the commitment they made at Doha to put an end to this most pernicious form of agricultural subsidy". But Mr Vaile also stressed that Australia would be working hard to improve the text on market access and domestic support.

Australia also has significant interest in the negotiations on non-agricultural market access (NAMA). The draft text includes unchanged the NAMA text from CancĂșn. While the text is not perfect, Australia and others in the "Friends of Ambition" Group believe the text provides an acceptable basis for the next phase of the NAMA negotiations, preserving the possibility of achieving an outcome consistent with the level of ambition mandated at Doha. It also provides generous flexibility for developing countries, although some developing countries would like even more.

The services framework text is expected to be uncontroversial. Australia will push for services to be further highlighted in the text, to better reflect the importance of further services liberalisation.

Development and Implementation issues are requiring sensitive handling. In discussions over text on special and differential treatment, developing countries are themselves divided over the draft text, which lists several sub-groups of developing countries and also specifies certain development issues which require special attention. Some consider this arbitrary and inequitable with the potential to undermine existing WTO groupings. Others are concerned that a multiplicity of levels of commitments may weaken core WTO principles of non-discrimination.

On implementation, the text simply mandates continued discussions in the relevant working groups to resolve outstanding implementation issues, as specified in paragraph 12(b) of the Doha Declaration. However Australia and others are concerned that it continues to request discussions by the Director-General on the issue of extension of protection for geographical indicators beyond wine and spirits. This is not an implementation issue, nor was any such work mandated at Doha.

It is hoped that the Singapore Issues (trade facilitation, competition policy, investment and transparency in government procurement) will not prove the destabilising influence they did at CancĂșn. The draft text on the table only mandates negotiations commencing on trade facilitation, with the other three issues remaining on the WTO Work Programme, but not forming part of the Doha Round. However some developing countries are concerned about detailed modalities for negotiations on a trade facilitation agreement.

While agreeing on a July Framework will be an important step, it is in the next phase of negotiations that the real detail of commitments and the means to implement them will be decided. In welcoming the introduction of the text, Mr Vaile foreshadowed that there is much more to come - "Australia will continue pressing all sides to move forward expeditiously with the Doha Round. We remain fully committed to seeking an ambitious outcome to the Round to create new export markets for Australia's world class agricultural products, manufactures and services".

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This bulletin is issued by the Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It summarises key WTO Doha Round-related activities over the past week.

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