WTO Doha Round Bulletin

September 2009

Overview

At the WTO mini-ministerial hosted by India in New Delhi on 3-4 September, representatives from 34 countries, including the Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, committed to intensifying negotiations to conclude the WTO Doha Round in 2010. Mr Crean welcomed India’s hosting of the meeting, which has injected fresh momentum into the Round. During the New Delhi meeting, >Mr Crean chaired a meeting on behalf of the Cairns Group that reaffirmed the importance of agriculture to the Doha negotiations and he also spoke to the plenary session on behalf of the Cairns Group. As instructed by ministers in New Delhi, senior officials met in Geneva on 14-20 September and produced an intensive structured >work program> >for the Doha negotiations for the coming months, including with the participation of senior officials each month (19 to 23 October, 23 to 27 November and 14 to 16 December).

Mr Crean informed the House of Representatives on 9 September of the important progress that has been made recently in efforts to conclude the Round. In particular, he drew attention to the re-engagement of India, the unanimous recognition that we are in the “end game”, the commitment to conclusion in 2010, the translation of political will into specific instructions to senior officials to make it happen, and the commitment by trade ministers to remain involved in the process.

The progress made in recent months, including in New Delhi and Geneva, was reviewed by G20 Leaders at the Pittsburgh Summit on 24-25 September. Leaders committed to further trade liberalisation, including a re-commitment to seeking an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Round in 2010. Leaders noted the need to close the remaining gaps as quickly as possible. They directed trade ministers to take stock of the situation no later than early 2010, taking into account the work program agreed in Geneva and seek progress on agriculture, non-agricultural market access as well as services, rules, trade facilitation and all other remaining issues.

Agriculture

Following on from the September week of senior officials’ meetings and the Geneva roadmap, Agriculture Chair David Walker has developed a work plan focusing on outstanding modalities, as well as work on scheduling data and templates. Agriculture negotiating sessions will be held on 12-16 October, 16-20 November, and 7-11 December, and will link in with scheduled meetings of senior officials.

Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)

NAMA Chair Luzius Wasescha Chair held a round of discussions from 22-26 September on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), with further meetings planned for November and December. There was good discussion of the range of existing proposals on the table, as well as some new proposals from Members. The Chair has also outlined the broader NAMA work program for the remainder of the year, which will include consultations with relevant members on issues such as country-specific flexibilities and preference erosion. Members are continuing to drive discussions on proposals for sectoral liberalisation.

Services

Australia is leading efforts to re-engage Members in bilateral and plurilateral market access discussions. We also continue to work with like-minded Members to ensure there is a commensurate level of certainty in services at the time agriculture and NAMA modalities are adopted. The next round of services negotiations are scheduled for 5-9 October.

Mr Crean is planning to attend the Coalition of Services Industries (CSI) Summit in Washington DC on 13-14 October. The Summit will provide a timely opportunity to re-emphasise the importance of a strong services outcome as a contribution to the successful conclusion of the Round in 2010.

Intellectual Property

TRIPS Special Session Chair, Trevor Clarke of Barbados, has called an informal Special Session on 2 October 2009 to consult on the approach to discussions on a GI register for wine and spirits for the remainder of the year. Australia remains committed to a register that fulfils the exiting Doha mandate on TRIPS issues, that is, a register that is voluntary, not burdensome and facilitates (not increases) protection for wine and spirit GIs only.

WTO Director General Lamy will host a fifth informal consultation on the TRIPS ‘implementation issues’ – GI extension and TRIPS/CBD – on 8 October 2009. It is anticipated that discussion on these issues will centre on questions posed by some of the WTO Membership.

Trade Facilitation

The next round of discussions on Trade Facilitation will be held on 5-9 October, with a continued focus on detailed drafting suggestions for the range of proposals on the table. There will also be an intensification of work in relation to Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) and technical assistance (TA) issues. Chair Eduardo Ernesto Sperisen-Yurt has called for an intensification of work, consistent with the broader roadmap for the Round, and is urging Members to work towards a draft text by the end of this year.

Rules - Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Fisheries Subsidies

The Chair of the Rules Negotiating Group called a two-week negotiating session from 16 to 25 September to resume working through his December 2008 revised draft text on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies. On anti-dumping, Members examined a number of definitional aspects relating to determining who may bring anti-dumping actions and how to determine injury to a domestic industry. Some of the issues appear to be ready for more detailed consideration in smaller groups. Members also discussed the issue of terminating anti-dumping investigations on the basis of negligible imports, an issue where views remain far apart. In response to calls to intensify the process, the Chair has included an additional negotiating session in December.

On horizontal subsidies, Members’ positions remained far apart on issues including the evidentiary standards for determining the serious prejudice effects of subsidies and definitional aspects relating to the benefits conferred by subsidies. Members also considered a proposal relating to duty rebate schemes. Concerns remained on a proposed change to the standard for determining whether an export credit is a prohibited export subsidy, particularly given the change was likely to decrease supply and increase the cost of trade finance.

The Chair also hosted a first session on possible harmonisation of provisions in the current Anti-Dumping Agreement to the Subsidies Agreement. Members expressed some caution, noting that while there are some textual differences that may be ripe for transposition, many would substantially amend the purpose and substance of provisions in the Subsidies Agreement.

Fisheries subsidies discussions focused on the questions on Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) for developing countries in the Chair’s roadmap. The Friends of Fish (an informal grouping of which Australia is a member) delivered a statement indicating flexibility on the conditionalities attached to substantive S&DT as well as offering technical assistance and longer transitional periods. Small, vulnerable economies (SVEs) presented a proposal calling for a carve-out for those Members which account for a negligible amount of world NAMA trade and who cumulatively account for less than 3 per cent of global fisheries catch. Other developing countries called for additional flexibilities, including an exemption from the proposed prohibition of subsidies for operational or capital costs on the high seas.

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