RULES: ANTI-DUMPING, SUBSIDIES Negotiations to clarify and improve disciplines

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The Doha mandate

The Negotiating Group on Rules was established by the Trade Negotiations Committee in February 2003. In the Doha Declaration, “rules” covers three subjects: anti-dumping (known in the WTO as GATT Article 6), subsidies, and regional trade agreements. (Regional agreements are handled in a separate briefing note.) 

The declaration sets out the following mandate on the WTO’s Anti-Dumping and Subsidies Agreements: 

“In the light of experience and of the increasing application of these instruments by members, we agree to negotiations aimed at clarifying and improving disciplines under the Agreements on Implementation of Article VI [i.e. 6] of the GATT 1994 [i.e. the Anti-Dumping Agreement] and on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, while preserving the basic concepts, principles and effectiveness of these Agreements and their instruments and objectives, and taking into account the needs of developing and least-developed participants. In the initial phase of the negotiations, participants will indicate the provisions, including disciplines on trade distorting practices, that they seek to clarify and improve in the subsequent phase. In the context of these negotiations, participants shall also aim to clarify and improve WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies, taking into account the importance of this sector to developing countries. We note that fisheries subsidies are also referred to in Paragraph 31.” 


Since then... back to top

During the initial phase of negotiations, participants have indicated the provisions in the two WTO agreements that they would like to clarify or improve in the subsequent phase. More than 100 submissions have been tabled by participants in the 10 formal meetings of the negotiating group held since February 2002, many of them on the Anti-Dumping Agreement. In addition, some participants have made specific proposals for clarifying and improving the agreements

Anti-dumping  A number of members believe that the existing Anti-Dumping Agreement should be improved to counter what they consider to be an abuse of the way anti-dumping measures can be applied, as indicated by the rising trend of dumping actions and growing number of WTO disputes in this area. An informal group of 15 participants (Brazil; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Hong Kong, China; Israel; Japan; Rep of Korea; Mexico; Norway; Singapore; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; and Turkey) calling themselves “Friends of Anti-Dumping Negotiations” have tabled many proposals for tightening disciplines on the conduct of anti-dumping investigations.

The United States has emphasized the importance of ensuring that anti-dumping actions, and for that matter, countervailing measures (usually contingency duties charged to offset the lower prices of subsidzed products), remain effective in addressing unfair trade. It has proposed a number of improvements and clarifications to the agreement.

Some developing countries have also taken the opportunity to raise in the negotiating group a number of outstanding implementation issues. These issues include “operationalizing” the provision in the agreement (Article 15) for more favourable treatment of developing countries.

Subsidies  While not yet attaining the same level of activity as anti-dumping, work on the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement has steadily progressed. More than 20 participants have identified issues on this agreement.

On fisheries subsidies, another informal grouping of members calling themselves the “Friends of Fish” (including Australia, Chile, Ecuador, Iceland, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines and the United States) has called for improved WTO disciplines in this sector to control subsidies that they say lead to over-capacity and over-fishing. This link between subsidies and over-fishing is disputed by Japan and the Rep. of Korea, who contend that setting up special rules for the fishing sector would fragment the Subsidies Agreement.

The Doha mandate on trade and environment negotiations (Paragraph 31 of the declaration) note that fisheries subsidies are part of the “rules” negotiations.


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For Cancún

The negotiating group has no intermediate deadlines. The ministers are expected simply to review progress in the negotiations based on a report by the group’s chairperson.