World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

7 February 2008

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

1 January 2008 marked the 60th anniversary of the multilateral trading system. The WTO’s World Trade Report 2007 celebrated this landmark occasion with an in depth look at the GATT and its successor the WTO.

Since the last Doha Bulletin, Mr Crean has met with key players in the Doha Round, including WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, Trade Ministers from the United States, European Union, India and Japan, as well as with key Cairns Group colleagues such as Brazil, Canada and Pakistan. In all these meetings, Mr Crean has emphasised that Australia remains committed to bringing the Round to a successful conclusion and urged the key players to show the necessary political will to achieve this.

Negotiations intensified 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. It is anticipated that the negotiating group Chairs will circulate revised draft texts on agriculture and NAMA this month. Reactions to the texts will be crucial in determining whether it will be possible to conclude the main elements of a Doha package this year.

The Chair of the Services negotiations will continue consultations to develop a consensus services text in advance of the next round of formal services negotiations scheduled for mid-late February 2008.

Agriculture

Towards the end of last year, Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer tabled 12 new technical working papers on domestic support and market access topics. These papers, along with the four released in November 2007, formed the basis for discussions in Geneva in early January 2008.

There was some further narrowing of gaps in export competition on topics such as export credits and food aid. On domestic support, discussions provided greater clarity on some key issues.

Members’ views on key market access topics remained widely divided, including on Sensitive Products, Special Products, a Special Safeguard Mechanism, tropical products and products with long-standing preferences.

Chair Falconer is due to release a revised text in early February.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

Discussions on the draft negotiating text proceeded throughout December 2007 and January 2008, but little progress was made towards narrowing the differences between Members’ positions. The NAMA-11 group (including India, Brazil and South Africa) continued to argue for a wide gap between the tariff cuts to be implemented by developed and developing countries, while developed countries stressed the need for developing country cuts large enough to generate new trade flows.

The EC and US separately proposed a new provision to limit the use of tariff cut flexibilities by developing countries. Meanwhile, new drafts of proposals to cut non-tariff barriers to trade in electronics products, to enhance transparency in the application of export restrictions, and to establish a horizontal mechanism to address specific non-tariff barriers, were released. Small group discussions on all proposals are likely to continue until the NAMA Chair, Don Stephenson, releases a revised text.

Services

The Services Council Special Session met on 23 January 2008 to discuss a draft services text to be tabled following the expected February release of the revised agriculture and NAMA texts. At the meeting, a group of like-minded Members (led by the US/EC but including Australia, Korea, Japan, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand) co-sponsored a text calling for a new date for revised services offers. The revised text also called for a broad political commitment to ensure that revised offers would bind existing market openness, as well as deliver new market access commitments. The Services Chair, Fernando de Mateo, will continue his consultations to develop a consensus services text in advance of the next round of formal services negotiations scheduled for mid-late February 2008.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the GATS Fourth Protocol on Basic Telecommunications, services negotiators will hold a symposium in Geneva on 20-21 February 2008. The symposium will review economic, commercial and regulatory developments in the telecommunications sector over the past decade. We expect that the symposium will be open to the general public.

Australia held its first round of consultations with the EC regarding the compensation package resulting from enlarged European Union (EU) membership to accommodate Bulgaria and Romania.

Intellectual Property

At further technical consultations on the geographical indications (GIs) register in December 2007, Australia continued to raise technical and policy concerns with the EC’s proposal. At an open-ended session of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Australia revisited the core principles and merits of the Joint Proposal. Australia has co-sponsored the Joint Proposal (along with Argentina, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, New Zealand and the United States) which would create a voluntary register that WTO Members could consult when affording protection to wine and spirit GIs. It is expected that informal consultations on GIs will continue in 2008.

Also in December 2007, the WTO released the 2007 Annual Report of the Council for TRIPS, document IP/C/48.

The next formal meeting of the TRIPS Council will take place on 13 and 14 March 2008.

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. Small group meetings were convened in January, following on from the informal CTESS which took place on 30 November 2007. The next formal meeting will be held sometime this month.

Trade Facilitation

The Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group (NGTF) continued discussions on aspects of the mandate on 10-12 December 2007, focussing in particular on improving the rules for trade-related fees and formalities (GATT Article VIII). The meeting discussed revised proposals on provisions for administrative and judicial appeals (TN/TF/W/116/Rev.1); the simplification and harmonization of trade documents (TN/TF/W/130/Rev.1); and the use of international standards (TN/TF/W/131/Rev.1). Differences remain on the key issues of special and differential treatment (S&DT) and technical assistance and capacity building (TACB). The group will next meet on 18 and 20-22 February 2008.

WTO Rules

Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The Rules Negotiating Group met from 12-14 December 2007 to discuss Members’ first reactions to the draft legal text tabled by the Chair on 30 November 2007 on proposed revisions to the existing WTO Agreements on Anti-Dumping and Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. The draft text covers the three main areas of work of anti-dumping, subsidies and countervailing measures and fisheries subsidies.

A great number of Members expressed dissatisfaction with the draft text, particularly the anti-dumping component. The Chair’s text on fisheries subsidies also generated strong reactions from Members, while the text on subsidies received a more moderate reception. Despite strong initial reactions, some aspects of the draft text received positive responses and most Members restated their commitment to the new intensive negotiating phase signalled by the Chair upon release of his draft text.

The Group will meet in a two-week block commencing 11 February 2008.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

February

5-6: General Council

11 – 22: Rules (trade remedies, fisheries subsidies)

18 and 20–22: Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

20-21: Symposium to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the GATS Fourth Protocol on Basic Telecommunications

March

13 - 14: Meeting of the TRIPS Council

18-19: Committee on Agriculture

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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