World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

Week ending 1 May 2007

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

Overview

Minister for Trade, Warren Truss, chaired the 31st Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting in Lahore, Pakistan, 16 - 18 April, where Ministers reaffirmed their ambition to achieve a far-reaching outcome in the Doha Round, expressed a strong sense of urgency to finalise the negotiations this year, and agreed to an intensive work program - the Lahore Agenda - in all three pillars of the agriculture negotiations to maximise the prospects for convergence in coming months. Attending the meeting, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy told Ministers the “window of opportunity” was narrowing.

Meetings of the G-4 and G-6 groups of nations were held in New Delhi on 12 April. G-6 Trade Ministers, including Mr Truss, foreshadowed intensified engagement, in parallel with the multilateral negotiating group process in Geneva, with the aim of concluding the negotiations by the end of the year.

Agriculture

On 30 April, the Chair of the WTO Doha agriculture negotiations, Crawford Falconer, circulated a document to WTO members that sets out the key issues where convergence will be required to get a final result in the WTO agriculture negotiations.

In the paper the Chair attempts to identify the parameters of where the “centre of gravity” lies for key issues on which convergence is necessary. The paper is scheduled to be discussed at the next informal Special Session on Agriculture scheduled for Monday 7 May.

The release of the paper signals the resumption of a more intensive Geneva process involving the broader WTO membership. This approach was flagged by Mr Lamy in a speech at the 31st Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting held in Lahore. Mr Lamy used the Cairns Group meeting, chaired by Mr Truss, to impress on Ministers that the “window of opportunity” for the Doha Round was narrowing and, while recognising the continued usefulness of bilateral and small group activity (such as recent G-4 and G-6 meetings in New Delhi), the time to reengage at the multilateral level was here.

The Lahore communiqué can be accessed at: http://www.cairnsgroup.org/media/070418-lahore.html.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

The NAMA negotiating group met during the week beginning 26 March. Members discussed the issues of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), the treatment of recently acceded members (RAMs) and preference erosion. The key focus was on a “horizontal NTB mechanism” for resolving disputes in relation to NTBs, proposed by the EU and the NAMA-11 group of developing countries. This problem-solving mechanism would allow Members to raise their concerns about NTBs in an informal process similar to mediation. The group will next meet in the week beginning 7 May.

Services

The April round of services negotiations held in Geneva from 16 – 27 April were both constructive and pragmatic. While momentum has been slow to build, useful progress on sectoral market opening requests, and domestic regulation of services in particular, was made during this latest round of negotiations.

Australia participated in an intensive two week program of plurilateral (collective) sectoral and bilateral negotiations covering the range of Australia’s and other Members’ interests. Of particular note was the spirit of transparency and engagement shown by negotiating partners. That said, we are not yet convinced that the ambition being shown in services is sufficient to provide balance across the Doha package. Further services offers will only come forward following a breakthrough on agriculture and NAMA. Australia is working hard elsewhere to ensure that overall ambition in Doha warrants a significant services contribution.

Work on domestic regulation resumed in Geneva in December 2006. Progress has been slow, essentially because Members have very different levels of ambition on domestic regulation. On 20 April, the GATS Working Party on Domestic Regulation (WPDR) accepted a new informal draft text prepared by the Chair as a basis for their domestic consultations on this issue. Australia supports the development of strong disciplines that will benefit Australian service exporters without interfering with the right of Australian Governments to regulate or creating unnecessary administrative burdens for business or governments. DFAT is consulting with stakeholders on this draft text, including at state/territory level, in advance of a further (10 May) meeting in Geneva to discuss this issue.

Intellectual Property

The European Community (EC) hosted an informal technical meeting in Geneva on 3 April to discuss its ambitions regarding Geographical Indications (GIs). Australia, along with other countries, used this opportunity to seek clarification of the EC’s proposals for a multilateral system of notification and registration of GIs. The meeting was useful in providing an opportunity for Australia to clearly articulate its concerns with the EC proposals and seek the views of other nations.

The Protocol Amending the TRIPS Agreement

Consideration of Australia’s acceptance of this amendment continues, and the Government intends to table the Protocol in Parliament on 9 May as part of Australia’s treaty-making process. The Protocol seeks to improve access for least-developed and developing countries to cheaper versions of patented medicines needed to address public health problems (such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and other epidemics).

The Protocol is designed to give permanent effect to a 2003 interim waiver that allowed countries with limited or no manufacturing capacity to access patented pharmaceuticals made under compulsory licence under certain circumstances. (Compulsory licensing is where a government allows someone to use a patent without the consent of a patent owner.) Flexibilities allowing for the production of medicines to protect public health have always existed in the TRIPS Agreement, and this Protocol will ensure that the benefits of these flexibilities extend to developing and least-developed WTO Members. While the Protocol addresses a particular problem, its text incorporates conditions that protect the balance of rights and obligations of the TRIPS Agreement.

The Protocol requires acceptance by two thirds of WTO Members for entry into force, and the WTO has set a deadline of 1 December 2007 for acceptance. WTO Members who have accepted the Protocol to date include the United States, Switzerland, El Salvador, the Republic of Korea, Norway, India and the Philippines.

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. Members continue to consider market access for environmental goods and services, information sharing arrangements and the relationship between specific trade obligations in multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) and the WTO.

Trade Facilitation

Members are continuing to work informally to address concerns with individual trade facilitation proposals. In preparation for the Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group meeting on 30 April and 1 May, the Chair had identified a number of areas where he would like Members to focus attention as limited discussion on these issues has taken place to date. The Australian, Canadian and US proposal on advance rulings is among the issues identified for discussion.

WTO Rules

Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The Rules Negotiating Group met on 27-29 March to consider subsidies and fisheries subsidies. The Group considered Australia’s revised textual proposals on export subsidies (TN/RL/GEN/80/Rev.1) and withdrawal of subsidies (TN/RL/GEN/115/Rev.1).

The Group also considered a further revised text by Brazil on fisheries subsidies(TN/RL/GEN/79/Rev.4). Brazil’s revised text introduced the concept of a “fishery adverse effect” as a new benchmark for allowing exceptions to a broad-based prohibition on fisheries subsidies. The March session also continued discussion of questions posed by the Chair in a non-paper which raised a number of fisheries-specific terms and concepts and the scope of outside expertise relating to possible disciplines on fisheries subsidies.

The April session of the Group is currently underway. The following session is tentatively set for the week beginning 11 June.

WTO Meetings in Geneva (as at 30 April 2007)

May

1 - Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

1 - Fisheries Rules Negotiations

2 & 4 - Trade Policy Review – Macau, China

2 & 4 - Committee on Trade and Environment - Special Session

7 & 9 - Trade Policy Review – Costa Rica

9-10 - General Council

11 - Committee on Trade and Development – Dedicated Session

21 - Council for Trade in Goods

22 - Dispute Settlement Body

23 & 25 - Trade Policy Review – India

June

5 & 6 - Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property

7 & 8 - Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

11 & 13 - Trade Policy Review – Central African Republic

20 - Dispute Settlement Body

26 - Committee on Trade and Development – Special Session

27 & 29 - Trade Policy Review – Indonesia

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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