World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

December 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

A successful conclusion to the WTO Doha Round would provide a much needed boost in confidence in the global economy at a time of global economic uncertainty.  Recognising this, in November G20 and APEC Leaders called for the conclusion of Doha modalities this year.  Strong statements on Doha have given the Round’s prospects a significant boost. 

G20 Leaders agreed to strive to reach agreement this year on modalities that leads to a successful conclusion to the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda with an ambitious and balanced outcome.   G20 and APEC Economic Leaders directed Ministers to meet in Geneva in December to achieve this objective.  Giving effect to this call, APEC Trade Ministers instructed senior officials to undertake the work required for such a meeting.  Australia played a key role in building support for these strong statements.  

The WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has tentatively suggested 13-15 December for a meeting of WTO trade ministers with a view to concluding the framework for the WTO Doha Round this year, although these dates have not been officially announced.  This will be a critical meeting, building on the substantial progress made at the Ministerial meeting in July this year. 

Although there is now significant political momentum for concluding the Doha Round this year, considerable technical work remains to be completed.  This includes the release of revised negotiating texts on agriculture and industrial products.  Australian senior officials have been in Geneva for several weeks, with other officials, undertaking the necessary preparatory work for a December Ministerial meeting. 

New Chair of negotiations on a multilateral register for GIs

Ambassador Trevor Clarke of Barbados has been elected as the new chairperson for the negotiations on a multilateral register for geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits.

Agriculture

Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer continued consultations on outstanding issues in the agriculture negotiations throughout November.  Work has continued to focus on cementing outcomes from the July Ministerial meeting and resolving outstanding issues including on the Special Safeguard Mechanism, tariff simplification, tariff quota creation, Sensitive Products and Green Box.  Australia has worked closely with members of the Cairns Group on these issues. 

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

NAMA Chair Luzius Wasescha (Switzerland) continued various consultations throughout November on outstanding issues in the NAMA negotiations.  A key focus of discussions was on modalities for sectoral negotiations, with the Chair encouraging Members to bridge differences in positions ahead of a possible Ministerial meeting in December.  The Chair also facilitated discussion on requests for further flexibility for developing countries. 

Services

The Council for Trade in Services and subsidiary bodies are meeting in the first week of December.  Issues on the agenda include China’s Transitional Review Mechanism in which Members have the opportunity to ask China about implementation of its WTO accession commitments on services; a notification from Bolivia under Article XXI (Modification of Schedules) advising it will be withdrawing its commitments on hospital services (see DFAT website for more information http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/services/wto_article_XXI_bolivia.html); and services rules issues, as well as matters relating to classification and scheduling of services commitments.

The meetings also provide an opportunity to take stock of the services negotiations in advance of a possible ministerial meeting.

Intellectual Property

In November the TRIPS Council met and the Special Session on a Geographical Indications (GI) Register reconvened under new Chair Trevor Clarke, who held additional meetings through November to advance mandated work on the register. 

In July a group of Members had put forward a proposal to make amendments to TRIPS to extend the higher level of protection available to GIs for wine and spirits and to require disclosure in a patent application of any genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge used in an invention, as well as to put in place an international register for all GIs with compulsory participation and strong legal effect.  These November meetings again saw these Members advance the argument that these elements should all form part of any decision on modalities for the Doha Round.  Australia, with like-minded countries, made the case that these proposals need to be decided individually and on their merits, go beyond the mandate for negotiation of a GI register as part of the Doha Round, and could distract from the pressing task of agreeing modalities on agriculture and industrial products.

Trade and Environment

No new developments.

Trade Facilitation

No new developments.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

No new developments.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

First week of December     Council for Trade in Services (CTS) and subsidiary body meetings

1-3 December                  Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

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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