World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

April 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 and Highlights

Recent weeks have seen some encouraging progress in the Doha negotiations across all three sectors - agriculture, industrial products and services. The Agriculture Chair is expected to release a further revised modalities text in late April. On industrial products, negotiations continued on key outstanding issues, including the balance between formula coefficients and flexibilities granted to developing countries. A revised modalities text is also expected in April. In services negotiations, broad acceptance of the need for a ministerial signalling conference has emerged. Officials are continuing to meet in Geneva and a Ministerial meeting in May is looking increasingly likely.

Agriculture

The agriculture negotiations appear to be gaining momentum with WTO Members intently trying to bridge gaps on the 'gateway' issues to enable the negotiations to move forward into a ‘horizontal’ process. It is expected that Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer is expected to be in a position to produce a further revised modalities text in late April, which will form the basis for the next 'horizontal' stage of the negotiations.

Negotiating energy has recently focused on ‘Sensitive Products’, one of the key 'gateway' market access issues. Differences have been narrowing between exporters and importers over how to arrive at domestic consumption figures for key products, which will be used to determine the level of tariff quota expansion provided as compensation for reduced tariff cuts under the Sensitive Products flexibility mechanism.

Aside from Sensitive Products, a number of other issues in market access remain to be resolved, including Special Products, the Special Agricultural Safeguard (SSG), Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), tariff quota administration and in-quota duty rates.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

Negotiations continued throughout March on key outstanding issues, in particular, how to balance formula coefficients and flexibilities granted to developing countries. Numerous ideas were aired, including linking coefficients to flexibilities, allowing different forms of flexibilities to be combined, granting credit to participants in sectoral initiatives, or making tariff cuts on a line-by-line basis. Of these, most support emerged for a form of ‘sliding scale’, under which developing countries could chose to apply a lower coefficient formula in return for expanded flexibilities, or vice versa. Meanwhile, discussions on other issues, including non-tariff barrier proposals, were held, but failed to yield significant progress. Negotiations will continue throughout April.

Services

Broad acceptance of the need for a ministerial signalling conference – strongly supported by Australia - has now emerged. A signalling conference would enable WTO Members involved to indicate how they proposed to respond to bilateral and collective (plurilateral) requests in revised offers and would be held to coincide with finalisation of the agreement of agriculture and NAMA modalities.

Australia held a series of bilateral services negotiations with key trading partners at senior officials level from 10-14 March. The level of engagement and willingness to consider how a signalling conference could generate constructive results for the Round were also encouraging.

Discussions developing a full services text continued. Australia maintained pressure for the inclusion of ambitious language on market access in particular. Discussions also continued on domestic regulation with further meetings foreshadowed in April and May.

Intellectual Property

The TRIPS Council was held on 13 March 2008. Vietnam presented its TRIPS implementing legislation to the Council, following its accession in January 2007. The legislation is available from the WTO site in the IP/N/1/VNM* series.

The Dominican Republic and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are co-sponsors of a proposed amendment to the TRIPS Agreement that would require disclosure of origin of genetic resources and traditional knowledge in patent applications (WTO document IP/C/W/474). The Council’s discussions of this proposal were limited to a restatement of well-known positions on the relationship between TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Sierre Leone and Uganda presented their priorities for technology transfer and technical assistance. The Council heard that the Chair was considering how a workshop could help for LDC Members better understand developed-country Members’ reports on technology transfer and technical assistance.

Gail Mathurin of Jamaica was appointed Chair of the TRIPS Council, replacing Nigerian Ambassador, Yonov Agor.

Trade and Environment

Members continued 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 and February 2008 in the lead up to the last informal CTESS, held on 27 February 2008. At the 30 November 2007 informal CTESS, the US and EC submitted a proposal on the liberalisation of a discrete group of "climate-friendly" goods. Australia has indicated its broad support for the proposal but believes it will require further refinement. We are currently conducting detailed product analysis. The next meeting of the CTESS has been set down for 29-30 April.

Trade Facilitation

Since the February meeting of the Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group (NGTF), work has continued intersessionally on refining and merging overlapping proposals under GATT articles V, VIII and X, and on customs cooperation. In March, the Trade Facilitation Chair released a revised compilation of textual proposals (TN/TF/W/43/Rev.14), including the new proposal by Australia, Canada, Turkey and the US on advance customs rulings (TN/TF/W/153). The compilation also includes revised and new proposals by India and Canada respectively on customs cooperation (TN/TF/W/123/Rev.2 and TN/TF/W/154). The group will next meet on 7 April 2008.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The Rules Negotiating Group met over 17-19 March to discuss further elements contained in Chair Guillermo Valles-Galmes’s draft text on anti-dumping. Small-group meetings continued to work through systematically the issues in the draft text including on procedural aspects of anti-dumping investigations and on duty assessments and reviews. These discussions have effectively completed a first read-through of the Chair’s draft text on anti-dumping. Members also discussed a range of proposals which have not been included in the Chair’s text (for example, the treatment of seasonable/perishable products, minimum levels of dumping margins and negligible import volumes). The Chair has indicated his intention to produce a revised rules text which would reflect the range of Members’ positions across all rules issues.

Members completed the first read-through of the Chair’s text on fisheries subsidies during meetings held 26-27 March. These issues included fisheries management requirements, notification requirements and dispute settlement provisions. There was also preliminary discussion of a proposal for more generous exceptions for small and vulnerable economies.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

April

7 Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group

21-25 Rules Week (to be confirmed)

29-30 Committee on Trade and Environment

Contact Us:

Trade Policy Section
Office of Trade Negotiations
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
BARTON ACT 0221

Fax: (02) 6261 1858
Email trade.consult@dfat.gov.au

or for more information visit our website or the WTO website.

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