World Trade Organization (WTO)

WTO Doha Round Bulletin

July 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 renewed political commitment to the Doha Round seen at recent international meetings in Bali and Paris continued in July at summits in Italy and Singapore. At the G8 Outreach Summit in L’Aquila Italy, Leaders committed to reaching ‘a rapid, ambitious, balanced and comprehensive conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda on the basis of progress already made, including with regard to modalities.’ Leaders instructed Trade Ministers to explore immediately all possible avenues for direct engagement within the WTO and to meet prior to the G20 Leaders Summit in Pittsburgh on 23-24 September.

At the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting in Singapore on 21-22 July, Trade Ministers vowed to resist protectionist policies, even those that do not violate trade rules, and to conclude the Doha Round in 2010. They provided specific guidance on outstanding issues, including efforts to conclude modalities in agriculture and NAMA, while advancing in parallel negotiations in other areas, such as services. Their Statement on Addressing the Economic Crisis and Positioning for Recovery also directed senior officials to meet in Geneva to ensure direct engagement within the WTO so that progress can be made prior to the Pittsburgh Summit.

In Geneva, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy presented his road map for the Doha negotiations. He told the Trade Negotiations Committee on 24 July and the General Council on 28 July that it was clear that for political leaders we are entering the “end game” and that the change in atmospherics needs to be urgently translated into a clear path for engagement across the board. Mr Lamy foreshadowed that the northern autumn would be a very busy period for all negotiating groups.

The first meeting after the European summer break will be the WTO-related mini ministerial meeting being hosted by India on 3-4 September in New Delhi. The theme is “Re-energising Doha: A Commitment to Development.” Planning is underway for the meeting. A wide range of trade ministers from developed and developing countries has been invited. The New Delhi meeting will be followed by the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Pittsburgh later in September.

Agriculture

The Agriculture Chair David Walker convened meetings in the week of 20 July to discuss how to progress outstanding technical work in the agriculture negotiations. A work program for the post-European summer break has been outlined, with technical work expected to resume in September.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

The NAMA Chair Luzius Wasescha has undertaken consultations with WTO Members and established a draft plan of work for the remainder of the year. Work will centre around three ‘NAMA weeks’ in September, November and December. The main focus will be on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), although the Chair has encouraged ongoing consultations and presentations on sectoral liberalisation. The Chair will also continue to consult members on outstanding issues related to special flexibilities for developing countries and the issue of preference erosion.

Services

Australia has circulated a draft plurilateral (sectoral) collective request on accounting services for Australia used the WTO services negotiations in Geneva from 22 to 29 June 2009 to galvanise support for our proposal for a new plurilateral (sectoral) collective request on accounting services. We chaired the plurilateral group on legal services and participated in meetings on sectors of key importance to Australia, including financial services, education services and telecommunications.

At the Council for Trade in Services (Special Session), Members discussed the most appropriate means of progressing services market access issues, especially leading into a potential ‘breakthrough’ environment. Australia took the opportunity to underscore our desire for a high quality outcome as part of a comprehensive Doha Round package.

Intellectual Property

medicines and the proposed requirement to disclose the source of any genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge used in any inventions, known as TRIPS-CBD. An informal session of the Council considered the issue of non-violation and situation complaints under the TRIPS Agreement. Consistent with past practice, TRIPS Special Session met the following day to discuss the multilateral register on wine and spirits (these negotiations are mandated by Article 23.4 of TRIPS).

On 17 July, WTO Director-General Lamy held his fourth in a series of consultations on the two ‘implementation issues’ of extension of the higher level of protection given to wines and spirits geographical indications (GIs) to GIs for other products, and TRIPS-CBD. Discussion on GI extension continued to be dominated by strongly held views on whether a material case has been made for GI extension. There seems to be greater potential in ongoing discussion of TRIPS-CBD, where participants share some common aims, but differ on means of achieving them.

Trade Facilitation

The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation (NGTF) met in early July to discuss both specific proposals on Articles V, VIII and X of GATT and provisions relating to special and differential treatment. The Chair encouraged Members to adopt a more detailed text-based discussion in relation to proposals, which helped clarify the outstanding issues. There was progress in bringing greater clarity to the issue of how developing countries would implement commitments.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

During the 29 June to 2 July session of the Rules Negotiating Group, Members took up further issues within the Chair’s revised draft text on anti-dumping as well as issues not reflected in the draft text. These included special and differential treatment for developing countries, third country dumping and amendments to the minimum dumping levels for terminating anti-dumping investigations. There was increased participation, particularly by smaller developing country Members, in the Technical Group on Exporter Questionnaires which continued its work examining injury issues. This increased engagement reflects the usefulness of exchanges between technical experts on Member anti-dumping practices and approaches.

The Group commenced work on horizontal subsidies, including both issues within the Chair’s revised draft text, contentious (bracketed text) issues and issues which are not reflected in the draft text. While there was broad agreement to clarifying elements of the definition of a subsidy, concerns were expressed on inclusion of text to clarify rules where there is regulated pricing of a product by governments. Concerns were also expressed over the issue of the treatment of so-called successor undertakings for export credits. This relates to the applicability of any revisions to the OECD Export Credit Arrangement to the WTO Subsidies Agreement.

There was a broad willingness to further consider Australia’s proposal on ‘withdrawal of the subsidy’, the remedy for prohibited subsidies. Most Members indicated that they understood the problem Australia had identified whereby there is currently no effective remedy for prohibited subsidies.

The Group agreed that technical discussions should commence on the extent to which proposed changes to the Anti-Dumping Agreement might also be relevant and appropriate for inclusion in the Subsidies Agreement. The starting point would be examination of harmonisation of existing provisions within the two agreements.

Seventh WTO Ministerial Conference in December

Planning has commenced for the Seventh WTO Ministerial Conference, which will take place in Geneva from 30 November to 2 December under the general theme of The WTO, the Multilateral Trading System and the Current Global Economic Environment. The meeting will be an opportunity to engage in a broad evaluation of the functioning of the WTO, including systemic and structural issues, and the multilateral trading system. Members are discussing possible issues for the meeting’s agenda. Ministerial conferences are the WTO’s highest decision-making body. The last ministerial conference was held in Hong Kong in 2005.

WTO Meetings in Geneva

A full schedule of upcoming WTO meetings is available at http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news_e.htm#whatson

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

For more information: the WTO website

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