World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

WTO Ministerial Meeting scheduled for 21 July 2008

This special edition of the bulletin, focussing on the meeting of WTO Trade Ministers to be held in Geneva from 21 July, is issued by the Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Key Issues

WTO Ministerial Meeting

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has scheduled a meeting of WTO Ministers in Geneva from 21 July with the aim of reaching agreement on agriculture and industrial products (non-agricultural market access or NAMA). This is the largest WTO Ministerial Meeting since 2005. Revised negotiating texts on agricultural and industrial products are expected to be released in the lead-up to the Meeting. The Meeting is likely to run for several days. A Ministerial services signalling conference will likely be held in Geneva in the week beginning 21 July.

The Minister for Trade, Mr Crean has welcomed the decision, calling the meeting a bold call, but the right one. He said that it meant we were now within reach of a breakthrough on the core of the Doha deal on agriculture, industrial goods and services.

In an open memorandum to the world’s Trade Ministers published in the International Herald Tribune on 3 July, Mr Lamy said the coming weeks represented a moment of truth for the Doha Round. If the Round was to be concluded, Ministers “must strike a deal this month on trade in agriculture and industrial goods, provide clear signals on opening services markets and clear the decks on the remaining issues”. He called on WTO Members to “show more flexibility at the negotiating table.”

Agriculture

During June and early July the Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer convened meetings in Geneva on selected topics in an effort to further narrow gaps in positions and clarify choices for Ministers. These topics included a possible tariff cap, special products, the special safeguard mechanism, in quota duties and green box domestic support measures. The Chair will produce another revision of his text towards the end of the week beginning 7 July.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

Senior officials from 12 countries including Australia (the “G12”) held intensive discussions during June to try to narrow the gaps between Members’ positions on key outstanding issues in the NAMA negotiations. There was significant convergence within the G12 on a number of issues, but the size of the tariff cuts are still to be agreed. NAMA is now a key issue which will have to be resolved if the Ministerial Meeting is to succeed. Discussions among WTO Members on outstanding issues are continuing in the lead-up to the Ministerial Meeting on 21 July

Services

Work continued apace throughout the month of June to prepare for the services ministerial signalling conference to be held in the week beginning 21 July. The signalling conference will be preceded by a week of bilateral and senior officials meetings to gauge levels of ambition, and attempt to narrow differences, including on the services negotiating text.

In bilateral negotiations, we will continue to press our key trading partners to be ready to signal improvements in their services offers which respond to our – and other trading partners’ – specific interests. Mr Crean has previously written to 26 other Ministers encouraging them to provide commercially meaningful new market access. From Australia’s perspective, ensuring a high level of market access ambition services will be the focus of our efforts.

Intellectual Property

On 9 June 2008 the WTO Director General released a report on discussions around amending the WTO agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to extend a higher level of protection to geographical indications (GIs) for products other than wine and spirits (GI extension), and to require disclosure in patent applications of any genetic resources and traditional knowledge used in the patent ("TRIPS/CBD"). The Chairman of the TRIPS special Session, Ambassador Manzoor Ahmad, has also released a paper on GIs and a possible multilateral register. Some Members have called for decisions on all three TRIPS issues as part of the "modalities" to be decided at the Ministerial Meeting. With Members' positions still far apart, such calls may be premature.

Trade and Environment

No new developments.

Trade Facilitation

Work has continued intersessionally since the last Negotiating Group meeting, with further refinement of the latest proposals under GATT articles V, VIII and X, and on customs cooperation, as well as on the issues of special and differential treatment for developing countries and on technical assistance and capacity building support. The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation is due to meet next on 14-18 July. Trade Facilitation Chair Eduardo Sperisen-Yurt will report on progress to the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) at the end of July, and set out a roadmap for further work.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The Rules Negotiating session planned for the week of 23 June was cancelled.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

July

14-18 July: Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

21 July: WTO Ministerial Meeting

Week of 21 July: Ministerial Signalling Conference

29-30 July: General Council

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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