World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

Week ending 1 February 2007

Key Issues

Overview

Key Trade Ministers from 25 countries, including Minister for Trade Warren Truss, called for the full resumption of the Doha Round during an informal gathering in the margins of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, last week (28 January). The call was effectively endorsed by the full WTO membership at a meeting in Geneva on 31 January.

During the WEF, Mr Truss met with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, and a number of counterparts including US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, European Commissioner for External Trade, Peter Mandelson, Brazilian Minister for External Relations, Celso Amorim and Japanese Ministers of Economy, Trade and Industry, Akira Amari, and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Toshikatsu Matsuoka to discuss the current state-of-play and possible ways forward. Mr Truss also chaired a meeting with the United States, Canada, Hong Kong China, Pakistan, New Zealand and Singapore, and was a panellist in a WEF session on the Round which included the British and South African Prime Ministers and the Brazilian President.

The decision to resume the negotiations in full is welcome and offers a glimmer of hope that it might be possible to conclude the negotiations this year. It follows signs of closer bilateral engagement between the US and EC in recent months. However there is still no breakthrough of substance, with significant gaps between WTO Members still to be bridged.

The next two to three months will likely see intense engagement at senior levels in Geneva and other capitals and help clarify whether a breakthrough is possible.

United States President George Bush has sought from Congress renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which is the authority he needs to be able to negotiate effectively with other WTO members. At present, existing TPA is set to expire 30 June.

Agriculture

While the renewed commitment by ministers in Davos is welcome, key sticking points which led to suspension of the Round last July remain, and there are a wide range of conceptual and technical issues which need to be resolved if full modalities for agriculture are to be completed in the first half of this year.

To translate political will into meaningful progress, the EU will need to do more on agricultural market access including committing to deeper tariff cuts and delivering substantial market access improvements for Sensitive Products; the US will need to make a better offer to cut its trade distorting domestic support; and major developing countries will need to rein in their demands on Special Products and the Special Safeguard Mechanism.

There are indications that recent bilateral discussions, particularly between the EU and US, but also involving other key players, including Australia, have been constructive and there may be a better sense of what might be possible as a final outcome on agriculture for the Round. Australia is continuing to put forward its “5 & 5” approach, which attempts to convey in simple terms the need for the EU to do more on market access (tariffs need to be cut by an average of 59 percent – 5 percent more than the G20 proposal), and the US to do more on domestic support (US overall trade distorting support needs to be cut by 5 billion - from US$22.6 billion to around US17.6 billion or less). These “headline” numbers are simply a useful starting point. The test of whether commercially meaningful cuts are made to tariffs and subsidies will depend on the detail, including the degree to which high tariffs are cut and the treatment of so-called Sensitive Products and Special Products.

The Cairns Group has remained active in the period since the Round was suspended last July, and made progress implementing the work program agreed at the September Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting, including developing ideas and approaches to issues such as Sensitive Products and Special Products. Cairns Group ministers are due to meet in the first half of the year in Pakistan.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

Since the resumption of technical work last November, the NAMA Negotiating Group has held two informal meetings. The most recent meeting was held 22-25 January and focused on non-tariff barriers, tariff schedules, and conversion of specific tariffs into ad valorem equivalents. Consultations were also held on the treatment of members who have recently acceded to the WTO. The Chair of the NAMA Negotiating Group proposes to hold future meetings on a monthly basis, with the next being scheduled for the week of 26 February.

Services

Negotiations aimed at liberalising global services markets resumed this week (29 January to 2 February) during a market access ‘cluster’ held in Geneva. Australian negotiators held discussions with officials from approximately 20 key trading partners, urging improved market access offers in sectors of priority interest. Australian officials also participated in meetings of like-minded sectoral groups including legal, financial, telecommunications, maritime and air transport, energy, construction, environmental architecture and engineering services. These meetings provided an opportunity to exchange notes on developments in markets of common interest. Further negotiations are planned over coming weeks, ahead of a deadline for WTO members (possibly in March or April) to submit further offers of market opening.

Intellectual Property

With negotiations suspended, there have been no TRIPS Council Special Session meetings (for negotiation of a multilateral register for the protection of geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits). Discussion at the 25-26 October 2006 meeting of the regular TRIPS Council focussed on enforcement. Inclusion of enforcement as a standing item on the TRIPS Council agenda continues to be controversial, particularly among some developing countries. The next meeting of the TRIPS Council is scheduled for 13–14 February.

Trade Facilitation

Following the resumption of technical work in November, the Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group has met twice informally, with the most recent meeting on 30-31 January. The discussions took up proposals circulated by WTO Members to be considered for inclusion in an agreement on trade facilitation.

Trade and Environment

Members continue discussions in the Committee on Trade and Environment Special Session (CTESS) on principal issues mandated for negotiation under Paragraph 31 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration: (1) the relationship between specific trade obligations in multilateral environment agreements and the WTO Agreement, (2) procedures for regular information exchange between MEA Secretariats and relevant WTO committees, and observer-status criteria, and (3) market access for environmental goods and services. Australia continues to participate in these discussions in CTESS.

WTO Rules

Subsidies and Trade Remedies

The Rules Negotiating Group resumed some technical level meetings in December including a technical group to examine exporter questionnaires used in anti-dumping investigations. During that week, the Chair held a plenary session exploring the possible linkage between the proposed new WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies and existing multilateral and regional organisations and agreements that govern fishing and fisheries.

The Group will meet in February to continue its work on trade remedies and fisheries subsidies. Australia has submitted revised textual proposals on export subsidies (TN/RL/GEN/80/Rev.1) and withdrawal of subsidies (TN/RL/GEN/115/Rev.1). Both proposals can be found on the WTO website.

Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs)

The Doha Round has mandated clarification of the rules relating to RTAs. The negotiations aim to clarify and improve disciplines and procedures under the existing WTO provisions applying to Regional Trade Agreements. At a meeting of the WTO General Council on 14 December, WTO members voted to adopt the Transparency Mechanism agreed to in the Negotiating Group on RTA Rules before the suspension of negotiations last July.

The Transparency Mechanism improves notification procedures and examination of all RTA (Free Trade Agreements and Customs Unions), including RTAs between developing countries. Increased scrutiny of all RTAs in the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements will ensure that they are WTO consistent and genuinely trade liberalising.

The adoption of the Transparency Mechanism has provided renewed impetus for the Negotiating Group on Rules to discuss the substantive WTO rules applicable to RTAs. The group met on 20 December to re-start discussions on substantive rules, specifically the definition of the term “substantially all trade”, a key element of the WTO rules on RTAs. Australia will continue to play an active role in these discussions.

Meetings in Geneva

February

2 - Trade Policy Review - Japan

5 - Dispute Settlement Body

5 - Rules Week

7 - General Council

12 - Rules Week

12 & 14 - Trade Policy Review - Argentina

13-14 - Council for TRIPS

20 - Dispute Settlement Body

26 - NAMA Week

26 & 28 - Trade Policy Review – European Communities

March

5 & 7 - Trade Policy Review – Australia

20 - Dispute Settlement Body

21 & 23 - Trade Policy Review – Canada

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

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