World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

5 December 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

Negotiations continue in Geneva at officials’ level to find convergence on aspects of the draft negotiating texts released by the Chairs of the Agriculture and NAMA negotiating groups in mid-July 2007. These negotiations are expected to continue until early/mid-December 2007 and resume in January 2008. It is anticipated that the negotiating group Chairs will circulate revised draft texts on agriculture and NAMA in early 2008 – perhaps late-January or early-February.

The draft services negotiating text has been put on hold pending a breakthrough on agriculture. The Chair of the rules negotiating group tabled his draft legal text on 30 November 2007 for first consideration at the group’s next scheduled meeting to be held 12-14 December 2007.

Agriculture

Agriculture negotiations reconvened on 26 November for several weeks, with discussions to focus on state trading enterprises (STEs), tariff quota administration, Green Box, Sensitive Products, as well as Special Products and the Special Safeguard Mechanism.

While Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer had planned to release a new draft in mid-November, its release is now expected in early 2008. Recently, the Chair released four working papers on export competition, food aid, STEs, and on general provisions relating to developing country elimination of export subsidies. The Cairns Group convened a number of meetings at a technical level to discuss these papers.

On Sensitive Products, the provision of consumption data by the European Union, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, the United States and Canada for various sensitive farm tariff lines at the HS-eight digit level was an important step forward for transparency on this key issue. More limited progress has been made in developing country market access issues.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

Discussions on the draft negotiating text continued throughout November, with most developing countries arguing that the text should impose lesser reductions on them. The NAMA-11 group (including India, Brazil and South Africa) was particularly vocal in seeking more concessions for developing countries. Developed countries stressed the need for developing country tariffs cuts large enough to generate new trade flows. Meanwhile, talks continued on specific concerns held by recently-acceded Members, small and vulnerable economies, countries with a low level of bound tariff lines, and countries within customs unions. Discussions are expected to continue throughout December, but, contrary to earlier speculation, the Chair is not likely to issue a revised text during the month, instead waiting until a new draft agriculture text is released in 2008.

Services

Consultations by the Chair of the negotiating group on services with WTO Members throughout the month of November revealed wide divergence in Members’ views on the substance of a services text. Pending a breakthrough on agriculture, The Chair has decided not to force the pace on development of a services text at this stage. He nevertheless encouraged Members to work towards a convergence of views.

The European Parliament advised Australia this month that it has approved the compensation package negotiated by the European Commission as a result of the modification or withdrawal of its services commitments to accommodate the then enlargement of the European Union (EU) to 25 member states. Individual EU member states must now complete their domestic processes prior to entry into force. As previously noted, the compensation package secured for Australian exporters of telecommunications, engineering and legal services new and more secure access to markets in the EU.

Intellectual Property

Since the October regular session of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), consultations on the extension of the higher level of protection currently available for geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits to GIs for all products have intensified. Switzerland, on behalf of the “GI Friends”, presented a draft text proposal on GI-extension and the EC has recently presented a paper on its “new ideas” on the GI register. There has been no convergence of views on Switzerland’s draft text on extension or the EC’s paper on the register.

Consultations on the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have also intensified, with Brazil calling for an outcome on TRIPS-CBD at the same time as GI extension. The key point of disagreement on the relationship between TRIPS and the CBD remains whether a disclosure requirement concerning the source and/or country of origin of any genetic resources, or the use of any traditional knowledge, in an invention should be a requirement for the grant of a patent.

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 most recent meeting of the CTESS took place on 30 November, continuing on from small working group consultations earlier in the month, and the next meeting will be held sometime in December. The Committee on Trade and Environment also met on 30 November, to discuss broader issues including private standards, market access issues and developmental concerns; and technical assistance and capacity building programs.

Trade Facilitation

The Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group (NGTF) held discussions on all aspects of the mandate on 5-9 November. The issue of special and differential treatment (S&DT) continued to be a focus of discussion. The meeting also discussed ways of further consolidating proposals covering transparency and publication of information (GATT Article X). There was broad support for key elements of the proposal by Australia, Canada and the US on issuing advance rulings (TN/TF/W/125). The group will next meet on 10-12 December.

WTO Rules

Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The Chair of the Rules Negotiating Group tabled on 30 November 2007 his draft legal text on proposed revisions to the existing WTO Agreements on Anti-Dumping and Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. The text covers the three main areas of work of anti-dumping, subsidies and countervailing measures and fisheries subsidies. The Group will start discussions on the text at the next scheduled meeting to be held 12-14 December.

The Chair signalled that this is a first step in a new intensive negotiating phase. He said his text would not serve as a basis for any immediate breakthrough but rather a starting point for achieving a gradual and progressive agreement.

The Chair also indicated that the Group will meet again in the weeks of 21 January and 11 February 2008.

WTO Meetings in Geneva (5 December 2007)

December

10–12: Trade Policy Review – Turkey

10-12: Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

12–14: Rules (trade remedies, fisheries subsidies) Week

19–20: General Council Meeting

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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