World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

February 2009

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

The Minister for Trade, Mr Simon Crean, met with many trade Ministers, and the WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (29-31 January). Ministers took the early opportunity to discuss a way forward for the Doha Round negotiations in 2009. In a statement issued after the meeting, Ministers agreed to continue to attach the highest priority to achieving a successful conclusion to the Doha Round and to refrain from raising new barriers to trade in goods and services. Mr Crean said that the important thing coming from the meeting was “the very strong view is that trade is not part of the problem, trade is part of the solution.”

In addition to Ministerial engagement, the Chairs of the negotiating groups and officials in Geneva are continuing with the technical work necessary to advance the Doha Round.

WTO’s response to the global financial crisis

Australia has welcomed the WTO’s response to the global financial crisis which has included establishing a Secretariat Task Force to consider, and provide a better sense of, the financial and economic consequences of the crisis. The Task Force will provide regular updates to Members on the measures taken in response to the crisis. The WTO is also closely examining the issue of availability of trade finance.

On 9 February, Director-General Lamy presented his first report on trade developments associated with the financial crisis to the Trade Policy Review Body. The report provides a valuable tool in efforts to maintain transparent and coordinated policy responses to developments. It offers a timely reminder of the risks of protection, particularly in light of significant scope for WTO Members to raise barriers within their existing entitlements – and another fundamental reason for completing the Doha Round as soon as possible. Further written reports will be provided to Members periodically, with discussion in the Trade Policy Review Body.

On trade finance issues, Mr Lamy has expressed concern regarding the direct impact of the financial crisis on developing country access to financing of imports and exports. He is holding series of meetings at the WTO, with both multilateral institutions and private banks, to check the availability of trade financing at affordable rates.

Agriculture

Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer has been consulting with various groups on the next steps in the agriculture negotiations. He met with the Cairns Group in late January.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

At an open ended meeting in late January, a number of WTO Members supported further work on the basis of the fourth revised negotiating text released in December. NAMA Chair Luzius Wasescha identified four categories of technical issues that could be progressed pending political developments: sectoral initiatives; non-tariff barriers; scheduling; and country specific flexibilities. Sectorals remain the key contentious issue and the Chair proposed that the bilateral discussions commenced in December continue with a view to clarifying the detail of proposals and to addressing the concerns of some Members. The Chair has undertaken to develop a work plan after further consultation with Members.

Services

Members continue to consider the shape of services negotiations and the services forward work program for 2009. Services Chair Fernando de Mateo recently convened Heads of Delegation in Geneva to discuss suggestions for the future work of the services negotiations. He said the services text agreed by WTO Members in July 2008 – at the time of the ministerial signalling conference on services – provided a “road map” which would form the basis for Members’ ongoing work. Australia stressed that it was necessary to engage in services in as positive and productive a way as possible at this juncture, and agreed that the road map provided a sound basis on which to proceed.

Separately, the Chair of the Services Council has undertaken consultations to determine a work program for regular sessions of the Council in parallel to Doha Round market access negotiations. Australia supports proposals for the WTO Secretariat to update sectoral papers – which date from the late 1990s – and a reinvigorated notification process in accordance with GATS disciplines (eg Article III Transparency). We also recognise that subsidiary bodies can engage constructively to find common ground in relation to domestic regulation disciplines and rules on services safeguards.

Intellectual Property

No new developments.

Trade and Environment

No new developments.

Trade Facilitation

No new developments.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

On 19 December 2008, Rules Chair Valles-Galmes tabled revised draft texts on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies (WTO document TN/RL/W/236). The draft texts relate to issues where the Chair believes there appears to be some degree of emerging consensus, reflecting a new ‘bottom-up’ approach to the negotiations. Consistent with this approach, the Chair has identified a number of difficult issues where Members’ positions remain far apart but has not proposed either draft text or compromise solutions.

At the same time, he released a conceptual roadmap on fisheries subsidies. The Chair indicated that the differences between Members are fundamental ones relating to both the structure and the concepts of any future disciplines. Further discussion on these crucial issues will be essential input to a new draft text. The roadmap identifies the key issues which will need to be addressed in order to progress negotiations.

Meetings were held in the first week of February to discuss WTO Members' initial reactions to the revised texts and fisheries roadmap. Further meetings have been scheduled for the last week of March.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

February

2–6 Rules Negotiating Session

3-4 General Council Meeting

9 Informal meeting of Trade Policy Review Body

23-27 Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

March-April

30 March- 3 April Rules Negotiating Session

Full schedule of upcoming WTO meetings

Contact Us:

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

Fax: (02) 6261 1858

or email trade.consult@dfat.gov.au

[More WTO Doha Round Bulletins]