World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin - Update

Week ending 31 May 2006

Key Issues

Overview

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, hosted an Informal Gathering of Trade Ministers in the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris on 23 May.  Representatives from 13 WTO member economies, including USTR-designate Susan Schwab and EC Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson attended the meeting at the Australian Embassy along with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy.

Members reaffirmed their commitment to concluding the Round in 2006 and agreed that intensified negotiation, at the ministerial level, was urgently needed if the Round was to be concluded this year.

Agriculture

During May there was an intensified program to progress negotiations on agriculture modalities.  Discussions focused on a series of reference papers prepared by the Chair of the agriculture negotiations, Crawford Falconer, on the range of outstanding issues under the three pillars (market access, domestic support and export subsidies).  This included reference papers on: food aid, export credits, state trading enterprises (STEs), Green Box, Blue Box, the aggregate measure of support (AMS) and overall trade distorting support (OTDS) as well as on market access issues such as sensitive products, special products, tropical products and preference erosion.

On export competition, the Cairns Group and G20 jointly tabled a proposal on elimination and phasing of the export subsidies which calls for an 80 per cent reduction of export subsidies by the end of 2010 and fleshes out some approaches to the parallel disciplines. 

Discussions on market access focussed on the size of the overall tariff cut as well as on the treatment of sensitive and special products and arrangements for addressing the issues of tropical products and preference erosion.  There were also comprehensive discussions on all elements of domestic support.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (industrial products)

The NAMA Negotiating Group met continuously during May in a variety of formats, seeking to narrow the gaps in positions particularly on the core issues of the tariff reduction formula and the treatment of developing countries.  There has been little movement, however, as NAMA continues to be linked to progress in the agriculture negotiations.

The NAMA Chair has also held consultations on a range of other issues including recently acceded members, preference erosion, and treatment of members who have a low level of WTO tariff commitments.  Limited progress has also been made in these areas.

The Chair will continue his consultations on the range of issues with small gatherings designed to bring together supporters and opponents of proposals as well meetings open to all WTO members.  The focus is expected to return to the tariff reduction formula and the treatment of developing countries.

The negotiating group is also considering proposals on treatment of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), with discussions at an early stage.  Countries proposing sectoral initiatives are also continuing to hold meetings to obtain support for their proposals.

Services

Services negotiators met in Geneva for a second round of plurilateral (or collective) sectoral negotiations from 15-23 May.  Plurilateral negotiations were agreed by Ministers at the 6th WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong in December 2005 to complement the traditional bilateral request-offer process.

Australia is a co-sponsor of 13 plurilateral requests in sectors of key export interest to Australia and a recipient of seven requests.  In the May round of negotiations Australia participated as a co-sponsor in plurilateral meetings on architectural and engineering services; computer and related services; construction services; education services; energy services; environmental services; financial services; logistics services; maritime transport services and telecommunications services.  Australia also participated as a recipient in audiovisual services; cross-border services (Mode 1/2); temporary movement of service suppliers (Mode 4); and postal/courier services.

The degree of engagement by Members (around 50) in the May plurilateral services negotiations continued to be positive.  Co-sponsors provided further clarifications and discussion was generally aimed at seeking elaboration from participants on the potential to meet the particular objectives of a collective request.  Australia also met bilaterally with key trading partners to pursue specific market access requests, particularly in sectors such as professional services (legal, architecture, engineering and accounting), and telecommunications and financial services.  Members indicated that they were consulting their domestic regulatory agencies and other stakeholders on the scope to improve commitments and generally indicated their intention to lodge a further revised offer by the due date of 31 July 2006.

Second Revised Offer
DFAT has commenced consultations on elements to be included in a further offer to be tabled by 31 July. The second revised offer would build on Australia's previous offers (March 2003 and May 2005) and would take into account bilateral market requests to Australia as well as requests received through the recent plurilateral sectoral negotiations. DFAT would welcome views from industry, NGOs and other interested groups and individuals. Australia's existing offer, tabled in May 2005, can be found on the DFAT website (http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/services).

Trade Facilitation

The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation is continuing to meet each month, having last met on 11-12 May with the next meeting scheduled for 6-7 June.  Discussions are continuing on a range of proposals by both developed and developing countries, covering specific aspects of the three GATT Articles under negotiation (Article V - Transit; Article VIII - Fees and formalities; and Article X - Publication and Administration of Trade Regulations).  There has been good discussion on the proposals and on the implications for developing countries.  The negotiating group is still considering how to move to text-based negotiations, and the May session saw a number of concise proposals as WTO members sought to consolidate ideas.

Trade and Environment

At a special session of the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) in February, Members made some progress in mapping out a work plan for the environmental goods and services (Paragraph 31 (iii)) mandate.  At  subsequent technical meetings in April and May, Members have discussed specific products by category, with the aim of refining an environmental goods list.  Further discussion by category will continue at a meeting in early June. 

WTO Rules

Subsidies and Trade Remedies

WTO rules negotiations have entered an intensive phase to meet the 30 July deadline for the Chair's consolidated legal text seeking to amend the WTO Agreements on anti-dumping, subsidies & countervailing measures and the new fisheries subsidies discipline.   

Ten proposals on the WTO Anti-Dumping Agreement and four fisheries subsidies papers were considered in plenary meetings during the Rules Negotiating Group session 1-10 May.  Many Members have revised their earlier proposals into draft legal text and the Chair continued holding small group consultations on Members' positions on various key proposals.      

Negotiations on fisheries subsidies have gathered momentum, with some limited progress during May.  These negotiations have now moved to small group consultations.  Members discussed in detail papers submitted by the EC, the US, and the co-sponsored proposal by Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei.  Brazil tabled the fourth version of its paper, which some consider represents a possible middle ground. 

The subsidies proposals, including Australia's latest text-based version on withdrawal of subsidy, (http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/wto_rules.html), were discussed in plenary sessions 29 to 30 May.  In Australia's paper, we have proposed that withdrawing a subsidy does not necessitate the recipients repaying it.  Other text-based proposals include the US paper on allocation and expensing of subsidies benefits and Brazil's paper on serious prejudice.    

The next meetings will be held in the weeks beginning 12 June (Subsidies & Fisheries Subsidies) and 26 June (Anti-Dumping).  

Meetings in Geneva

(as at 28 April 2006)

June
6-7              Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation
7 & 9           Trade Policy Review Body - Iceland
12                Rules Week (Subsidies & Fisheries Subsidies)
12-13          Council for TRIPS Special Session
12-16          NAMA Week
19                Dispute Settlement Body
19-30         Services Weeks
20 & 22      Trade Policy Review Body - Chinese Taipei
26                Rules Week (Anti-dumping)
26 & 29      Council for Trade in Services Special Sessions
30                Dispute Settlement Body Special Session

July
3 & 5            Trade Policy Review Body - Togo
3-4               Dispute Settlement Body Special Session
17-21           NAMA Week
24-26          Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation
24 & 26       Trade Policy Review Body - Nicaragua
27-28          General Council

Contact Us:

Trade Policy Section
Office of Trade Negotiations
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
BARTON ACT 0221
Fax: (02) 6261 3514

or email trade.consult@dfat.gov.au

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