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 an informal gathering of 18 Ministers, including from the United States, European Union, Japan, India and Brazil, in the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris on 16 May. The gathering provided a useful opportunity for ministers to take stock of the Round. All Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to concluding the Round as soon as possible.

Activity among the G4 countries (EU, US, India and Brazil) intensified during May with meetings at both ministerial and senior-official level. Agriculture has been the main focus of these meetings, although there has been some discussion of NAMA issues. Meetings are expected to continue during June.

Despite this activity, there has been no breakthrough of substance. Bridging the gaps, particularly in agriculture, remains difficult.

Agriculture

On 25 May the Chair of the WTO Doha agriculture negotiations, Crawford Falconer, circulated a second “challenges” paper to WTO members, further to his paper released on 30 April. The paper set out further issues on which convergence will be required before members can achieve a satisfactory outcome to the WTO agriculture negotiations. In the papers, the Agriculture Chair attempted to identify the parameters of where the “centre of gravity” lies for key issues on which convergence is needed.

The release of the Agriculture Chair’s papers has contributed to a more intensive Geneva process involving the wider WTO membership. The Agriculture Chair convened a number of meetings during May to discuss the issues raised in the paper.

The Cairns Group has remained active during this period, developing responses to the Chair’s papers. On 22 May the Group also released important new proposals in the areas of Food Aid and Export Credits. The rules proposed on food aid are to ensure that there are no barriers to the provision of emergency food aid, while also preventing surplus product being dumped on world markets. On export credits, the aim is to better discipline programs where overly-generous government preferential financing can amount to an export subsidy.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

The NAMA negotiating group met during the week of 7 May. Members discussed the formula for the first time this year, focussing on the need to reconcile the mandate on special treatment for developing countries and the objective of many Members to achieve real improvements in market access. Discussion was premised on using a simple Swiss formula, however a wide gap remained on the contribution to be made by developing countries.

The NAMA group will next meet in the week of 4 June.

Services

Since the last round of formal negotiations in April, Australia has been working to ensure that Doha includes a credible services outcome. In an attempt to encourage more ambition, Australia informally proposed that, prior to submitting revised offers, Members consider committing to binding existing levels of services access (with the qualification that some flexibility could be retained for sensitive sectors as long as it was balanced by commercially meaningful new market access elsewhere).

Ahead of such a breakthrough, services discussions are intensifying in Geneva. The Services Chair is convening Heads of Delegation discussions in an effort to increase pressure on Members to improve the quality of their services offers. Australia actively prosecuted our sectoral interests in maritime transport, freight logistics, computer-related and private education services at the first Heads of Delegation meeting on 10 May. The next meeting has been tentatively scheduled for 4 June at which energy, postal/courier, audio-visual, telecommunications and environmental services are to be discussed.

The informal draft text prepared by the Chair of GATS Working Party on Domestic Regulation has been discussed at two meetings of the Working Party in May. Positions remain divided amongst the Membership. 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.

Intellectual Property

The next meeting of the TRIPS Council will take place in Geneva on 5-6 June.

The Protocol Amending the TRIPS

Consideration of Australia’s acceptance of this amendment continues, and the Government tabled the Protocol in Parliament on 9 May. The Department will appear before a Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) public hearing on 18 June, as part of Australia’s treaty-making process.

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. The May meeting of the Committee on Trade and Environment Special Session (CTESS) considered an Australian paper on the relationship between WTO rules and specific trade obligations in multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) (TN/TE/W/72); a proposal by Canada and New Zealand on information sharing and observership (TN/TE/W/71); and a proposal by a group of countries on environmental goods (Job(07)54). The next CTESS meeting is 11-13 June.

Trade Facilitation

Discussion remained positive during the meeting of the Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group, held from 30 April to 1 May. The Chair urged Members to intensify their efforts so they could quickly proceed to discussing draft text for a future agreement. Delegates called for the preparation of revised proposals that incorporate the comments made by Members in recent sessions of the negotiating group.

Three new proposals on national enquiry points, internet publication and expedited shipments, have been circulated in preparation for the next meeting scheduled for 7 - 8 June.

WTO Rules

Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs)

The Doha Ministerial Declaration mandated clarification of the rules relating to Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs). In December 2006, the WTO adopted a Transparency Mechanism to improve the notification procedures and examination of all RTAs (Free Trade Agreements and Customs Unions), including RTAs between developing countries. Increased scrutiny of RTAs in the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements (CRTA) will enable members to consider whether they are WTO consistent and genuinely trade liberalising.

At the CRTA meeting on 14-16 May 2007, the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) was the first RTA to be examined under the Transparency Mechanism. WTO members welcomed the increased information provided by the factual reports drawn up by the WTO Secretariat and the opportunity to question parties on their agreements in advance of the meeting. The factual reports, together with the question and answer documents and the minutes of the meeting will be made available to the public on the WTO website.

Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The Rules Negotiating Group met from 26 April – 2 May. The main focus was the tabling by the United States of a comprehensive proposal on fisheries subsidies (TN/RL/GEN/145). The proposal calls for a broad prohibition on fisheries subsidies with limited exceptions. The proposal acknowledges the need to provide for special provisions for developing countries as well as so-called “small programs” without elaborating text on these aspects. Australia indicated its support for the United States’ proposal.

The Chair also held a ‘brainstorming session’ on special and differential treatment for developing countries and the handling of artisanal and small-scale fisheries under future disciplines.

A Technical Group on Exporter Questionnaires, established originally to assist the Chair of the Rules Group to examine practices of Members on anti-dumping investigations in relation to documentary requirements, focussed at this meeting on reports relating to visits to companies.

The next Rules Negotiating Group session is set for the week beginning 11 June.

WTO Meetings in Geneva (as at 30 April 2007)

June

4–8 - NAMA Week

4–8 - Services Week

4 - Dispute Settlement Body

5 - Committee on Trade and Development – Special Session

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

7 & 8 - Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

11 & 12 - Committee on Trade and Environment – Special Session

11 & 13 - Trade Policy Review – Central African Republic

20 - Dispute Settlement Body

25–29 - NAMA Week

27 & 29 - Trade Policy Review – Indonesia

July

9 - Council for Trade in Goods

18 & 20 - Trade Policy Review – Bahrain

24 - Dispute Settlement Body

25 & 26 - General Council

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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