The Doha implementation decision explained

No area of WTO work received more attention or generated more controversy in the two years before the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, than the issue of “implementation” — developing countries’ problems in implementing the WTO Agreements.

Around 100 issues were raised. The decision, combined with paragraph 12 of the main Doha Declaration, provides a two-track solution:

> More than 40 items under 12 headings were settled at or before the Doha conference, for immediate delivery.

> The vast majority of the remaining items are immediately the subject of negotiations.

This is an unofficial explanation of what the decision says.

See also
> Text of implementation decision
> Background on how the decision was reached

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Decision of 14 November 2001 

The 14 headings cover the following points:

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General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 

(section 1)  

Balance-of-payments exception: This deals with the conditions member governments have to meet if they restrict imports in order to protect their balance-of-payments. The implementation decision underscores the fact that the two relevant GATT provisions have different wording and therefore set less stringent conditions for developing countries.

The two provisions are Article 12, which applies to all members, and Section B of Article 18, which applies to developing countries. For example, where Article 12 refers to action to prevent the “imminent threat of a serious decline in monetary reserves”, Article 18 does not use the word “imminent”. And where Article 12 says that a member government’s monetary reserves must be “very low” in order to justify the imposition or maintenance of restrictions, Article 18 refers to “inadequate” reserves as justification for restrictions.

The implementation decision therefore serves as a reminder that Section B of Article 18 amounts to special and differential treatment for developing countries. If they make use of it, the conditions are “less onerous” than those required under Article 12.

Implemented: immediately

> more ...

Market-access commitments: The decision directs the Market Access Committee to give further consideration and make recommendations to the General Council on the meaning to be given to the phrase “substantial interest” in GATT Article 13 (on the non-discriminatory allocation of quantitative restrictions among supplying countries of a particular product).

The question of which countries have “substantial interest” arises because, for example, the article says when a country allocates import quotas, it can negotiate with other WTO members having a substantial interest, or allocate the quotas according to those members’ previous shares. In some cases, a country with “substantial interest” can seek consultations with the country allocating a quota.

Implemented: immediately
Recommendation to General Council: by end of 2002

> more ...

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(section 2)  

Rural development and food security for developing countries: Other members are to show some restraint when it comes to challenging measures taken by developing countries that are notified under the Green Box and that address rural development and food security concerns. (To qualify as a Green Box subsidy, a measure must have no effect on trade or production, or at most a minimal effect. It must also conform to a number of other criteria set out in the Agriculture Agreement. Provided these general and specific criteria are satisfied there are no limits to the value of subsidies each member can provide under the Green Box.)

Implemented: immediately

Least-developed and net food-importing developing countries: Agricultural trade liberalization could raise world food prices and affect poorer importing countries. At the end of the Uruguay Round negotiations in 1994, ministers reached a Decision on Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Programme on Least-Developed and Net Food-Importing Developing Countries.

Since then, these countries have been seeking more effective action. In the lead up to the Doha Ministerial Conference, the WTO Agriculture Committee reached agreement on this (and on two other subjects). The 27 September 2001 decision in the committee covers food aid, technical and financial assistance to improve productivity and infrastructure, financing for imports, and review of follow-up.

In the Doha decision, ministers take note of the committee’s decision.

Implemented: immediately
Report to General Council: late 2002, after last Agriculture Committee meeting of the year

> details: the Agriculture Committee’s decision

Export credits, export credit guarantees or insurance programmes: These come under Art.10.2 of the Agriculture Agreement, which deals with countries finding ways to get around their commitments to reduce export subsidies

The Agriculture Committee’s 27 September 2001 decision defines tasks to be undertaking within the committee — work on circumvention of export subsidy commitments, and considering how a possible agreement on export credits might be brought into the WTO — while negotiations on this subject continue in the agriculture negotiations.

Implemented: immediately
Report to General Council: late 2002, after last Agriculture Committee meeting of the year

> details: the Agriculture Committee’s decision

Tariff rate quotas
: This is a follow-up to a General Council decision on implementation on 19 December 2000. Member governments were required to provide additional information on how they were administering their tariff quotas by mid-2001. The objective is to make the quota administration more transparent, equitable and non-discriminatory.

The Agriculture Committee’s 27 September 2001 decision list the countries that had submitted the additional information by that time, while also observing that the requirement should not place an undue burden on developing countries. It commits the committee to continue to review the situation.

Implemented: Addenda to notifications began mid-2001
Agriculture Committee review: continuous

> more ...

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Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures 

(section 3)  

Longer time-frame for developing countries to comply with other countries’ new SPS measures: Where a phased introduction is possible, the longer period for developing countries to comply is now understood to mean, normally, at least six months. Where phased introduction is not envisaged, but a member government has problems complying, the two sides should consult, “while continuing to achieve the importing Member’s appropriate level of protection.”

Implemented: immediately

“Reasonable interval” between publication of a country’s new SPS measure and its entry into force:
Now understood to mean, normally, at least six months, subject to certain conditions. But particular circumstances and the actions necessary to implement a measure also have to be taken into account. If the measure contributes to trade liberalization, it should not be delayed unnecessarily.

Implemented: immediately

: Where possible, governments are supposed to accept that different measures used by other governments, which provide the same level of health protection for food, animals and plants, can be equivalent to their own. The SPS Agreement (Art.4) requires this, but does not say how it is to be achieved.

In the lead-up to Doha, the SPS Committee settled this implementation issue by deciding on an outline of steps designed to make it easier for all WTO members to make use of the SPS Agreement’s equivalence provisions.

In the Doha decision, ministers instruct the SPS Committee to develop expeditiously the specific programme to further the implementation of these equivalence provisions.

Decision: 24 October 2001
Further implementation: immediately

Review of the SPS Agreement
: The Doha decision instructs the SPS Committee to review the operation of the agreements at least once every four years.

Implementation: every 4 years or sooner

Developing countries’ participation in setting international SPS standards
: The Doha decision notes the actions taken by the WTO director-general to help developing-country members participate more effectively, including efforts to coordinate with the relevant organizations and to identify needs for technical assistance in the field.

The ministers go on to urge the director-general to continue with this, and to give priority to least-developed countries.

Implementation: immediately

Financial and technical assistance
: The decision calls for members to provide assistance to least-developed countries so that they can respond adequately to new SPS measures that could obstruct their trade. It also calls for assistance to help them implement the agreement as a whole.

Implementation: immediately

> more ...

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Textiles and clothing 

(section 4)  

In this section, ministers reaffirm their governments’ commitment to “full and faithful” implementation of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing. They refer in particular to three concerns:

  • The agreement’s provisions on the early integration of products into normal GATT rules and the elimination of quotas. The ministers agree that these provisions should be “effectively” used.
  • Anti-dumping actions on developing countries’ textiles and clothing exports, when those exports were previously restricted by quotas under the agreement. The ministers agree that for two years after the sector is fully integrated into GATT rules (i.e. 2005–2006) their governments will exercise “particular consideration” before initiating anti-dumping investigations on these products.
  • Determining where a textiles or clothing product is made, an important issue when, for example, quotas apply to products from particular countries. The ministers agreed to give the WTO’s Committee on Rules of Origin a role in this. Their governments will notify any changes in their rules of origin for these products to the committee, which may decide to examine the changes.

Implemented: immediately

The ministers then ask the Goods Council to examine the following proposals and make recommendations to the General Council by 31 July 2002:

  • That small suppliers and least-developed countries should be given the most favourable treatment available when importing countries calculate quotas for the remaining years of the agreement (i.e. to 1 January 2005). In particular, members will use the method that gives the largest quota sizes under “growth-on-growth” provisions calculated from the beginning of the implementation period. Where possible, quotas should be eliminated completely for imports from these countries.
  • For other exporters, importing members will also provide larger quotas than originally envisaged. Specifically, they would calculate the quota levels for the remaining years of the agreement as if the growth-on-growth provision for stage 3 had been implemented on 1 January 2000 (instead of 1 January 2002 as specified in the agreement).

Recommendation to General Council: by 31 July 2002

> more ...

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Technical barriers to trade 

(section 5)  

Technical assistance: the ministers confirm the approach being developed by the TBT Committee, reflecting the results of the reviews of the TBT Agreement undertaken every three years. They mandate this work to continue.

Time to adjust to new regulations: Article 2.12 of the TBT Agreement requires governments to allow other members — particularly developing countries — “a reasonable interval” to adapt their products or production methods to new regulations in importing countries (except in emergencies, and subject to certain conditions). The ministers agree that, if possible, this “reasonable interval” is normally six months.

Developing countries’ participation in the work of international standards-setting organizations: The ministers note the WTO director-general’s efforts in helping developing countries participate more in the work of international standards-setting activities, and in coordinating with other organizations on improving technical assistance. They urge the director-general to continue this, and to give priority to least-developed countries.

Technical assistance for least-developed countries: The ministers urge all WTO members to provide adequate financial and technical assistance to least-developed countries so that they can respond to new TBT measures that significantly affect their trade, and so that they can deal with any special problems in implementing the TBT agreement’s provisions in general.

Implemented: immediately

> more ...

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Trade-related investment measures (TRIMs) 

(section 6)  

The Decision urges the Goods Council “to consider positively” possible requests for extension by least-developed countries of the seven-year transition period given to them under the TRIMs Agreement to eliminate inconsistent TRIMs.

> more ...

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Anti-dumping (GATT Article VI) 

(section 7)  

Repeated investigations: If a government receives a request for a second anti-dumping investigation into a product, within a year of a first negative finding on that product, the ministers agree that their investigating authorities must examine this request “with special care”, and only go ahead if circumstances have changed.

Implemented: immediately

Developing countries’ exports: Article 15 of the Anti-Dumping Agreement says developed countries must give “special regard” to the special situation of developing countries when they consider anti-dumping measures, and alternative “constructive remedies” have to be explored before anti-dumping duties are applied.

The ministers underscore that this is provision is mandatory. They instruct the Anti-Dumping Practices Committee’s Implementation Working Group to try to clarify how it could be implemented, asking for recommendations on how to put the provision into practice within 12 months.

Recommendations: in 12 months

Time for determining dumped volume: Article 5.8 says that if the volume of dumped imported products is negligible, the investigation must be terminated (and no anti-dumping action taken). But the article does not specify the time period to be used in determining the volume of dumped imports.

Ministers agree that this creates uncertainties in the implementation of the provision. They instruct the Anti-Dumping Practices Committee’s Implementation Working Group to prepare recommendations within 12 months. The aim is to make the application of time periods as predictable and objective as possible.

Recommendations: in 12 months

Annual reviews: Every year, the Anti-Dumping Practices Committee reviews how the agreement has been implemented and how it has operated. The ministers instruct the committee to prepare guidelines to improve the reviews, and to report its views and recommendations to the General Council within 12 months.

Guidelines, report with recommendations to General Council: in 12 months.

> more ...

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Customs valuation (GATT Article VII) 

(section 8)  

A number of developing countries had asked to extend their five-year transition period for implementing the Customs Valuation Agreement’s provisions. This applied to developing countries that had not signed the plurilateral agreement under GATT.

The Customs Valuation Committee had discussed these requests, and approved some extensions. The ministers took note of the committee’s actions.

Effective: immediately

In addition, least-developed countries have asked for a further delay in the deadline to implement the agreement. The Doha Implementation Decision urges the Goods Council to consider these requests positively, taking into account the countries’ specific circumstances when setting the terms and conditions.

Implemented: immediately

One of the key questions in dealing with customs fraud is to verify whether the declared value of imported goods is correct. Cooperation with the customs authorities in the exporting country can be important for the customs authorities in the importing country.

The implementation decision says member governments have to cooperate in exchanging information, including on export values, within their domestic laws and regulations. The ministers instruct the Customs Valuation Committee to look at practical approaches to verifying the accuracy of declared values, including the exchange of information on export values. The committee has to report to the General Council by the end of 2002.

Implemented: immediately
Report to General Council: by end 2002.

> more ...

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Rules of origin 

(section 9

A key area of work in the Rules of Origin Committee is harmonizing the way WTO member governments determine where each of the hundreds of thousands of traded products are made. This is complicated by globalization and the way a product can be processed in several countries before it is ready for the market. Harmonization is required under Part 4 of the Rules of Origin Agreement. The ministers take note of the committee’s report on progress so far, and urge it to finish this by the end of 2001.

They agree during the transition to the new, harmonized rules of origin, any interim arrangements that members implement must be consistent with the agreement, particularly Articles 2 (“Disciplines During the Transition Period”) and 5 (“Information and Procedures for Modification and Introduction of New Rules of Origin”). The committee can examine these interim arrangements, the ministers say.

Harmonization: by end of 2001

> more ...

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Subsidies and countervailing measures 

(section 10)  

Exempt developing countries: Normally, subsidies that require recipients to export are banned. But some developing countries are allowed to pay these subsidies, and they are defined in Annex 7 of the Subsidies Agreement. Among them are a group who are only eligible so long as their GNP stays below US $1,000 per capita.

The ministers agree that this threshold should be “US $1,000 in constant 1990 dollars for three consecutive years”.

An outstanding question is how to calculate “constant 1990 dollars”, and the ministers say the threshold should take effect when the Subsidies Committee adopts a method. Failing that, if there is no consensus by 1 January 2003, a method proposed by the committee chairperson will be applied.

The ministers also underscore that countries in this group will continue to be eligible “so long as its GNP per capita in current dollars has not reached US $1000 based upon the most recent data from the World Bank”.

In a separate paragraph, the ministers agree that a country dropped from the list can be restored to the list if its GNP per capita drops below US$ 1,000.

Implemented: when calculation method agreed, or 1 January 2003

Proposal to allow certain subsidies for development: Some countries have proposed that some subsidies in developing countries should not have to face countervailing measures or other actions from other governments. These are described as subsidies with “legitimate development goals”, and include support for regional growth, technology research and development, production diversification, and development and implementation of environmentally sound methods of production.

The ministers agree that this is an implementation issue to be handled under section 13 (below), which in turn simply refers to Paragraph 12 of the main Doha Declaration. The ministers also agree that during the negotiations their governments will exercise due restraint in challenging these subsidies.

Implemented: immediately, pending negotiations

Review of countervailing duty investigations: The ministers agree that the Subsidies Committee is to continue its review of the agreement’s provisions on countervailing duty investigations and to report to the General Council by 31 July 2002.

Report to General Council: by 31 July 2002

Least-developed countries’ “export competitiveness”: The ministers affirm that least-developed countries’ governments are allowed to pay subsidies that require recipients to export, normally prohibited, “and thus have flexibility to finance their exporters, consistent with their development needs”.

However, this right is qualified by two provisions. Article 27.5 says least-developed countries that have “reached export competitiveness” in a product must phase out the subsidies on that product within eight years. Art.27.6 defines “export competitiveness” as 3.25% of world trade in a product, with some details about how that is to be demonstrated. The ministers say the eight-year period begins from the date that “export competitiveness” exists within the meaning of Art.27.6.

Implemented: immediately

More time for some developing countries to phase out export-contingent subsidies: The ministers instruct the Subsidies Committee to give some developing countries more time to phase out subsidies that require recipients to export, according to procedures in a committee document (G/SCM/39).

For developing countries that are required to phase these out, Art.27.4 of the Subsidies Agreement sets a period of eight years. Extending that would be in response to specific requests. But ministers instruct the Subsidies Committee to avoid different treatment for countries in similar circumstances — the committee is to take into account relative competitiveness in relation to other developing-country members who have requested an extension.

Implemented: immediately

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Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) 

(section 11)  

“Non-violation” complaints: This deals with a government’s ability to bring a dispute to the WTO, based on loss of an expected benefit caused by another member’s actions — even if no WTO agreement or commitment has actually been violated.

While non-violation complaints are possible in the areas of goods and services, the TRIPS Agreement set a temporary moratorium on non-violation complaints. During that time, the TRIPS Council started looking at the extent and way (“scope and modalities”) non-violation complaints could be applied.

The Doha Implementation Decision directs the TRIPS Council to continue to discuss this and to make recommendations to the 2003 Fifth Ministerial Conference. Until then, members have agreed not to file non-violation complaints under TRIPS.

Implemented: immediately
Recommendations on scope and modalities: 5th Ministerial Conference, 2003 (in Mexico)

Technology transfer to least-developed countries: Art.66.2 of the TRIPS Agreement says developed countries have to provide incentives for their private sector and institutions, in order to promote and encourage technology transfer to least-developed countries.

Least-developed countries want this requirement to be made more effective. In Doha, ministers agreed that the TRIPS Council would “put in place a mechanism for ensuring the monitoring and full implementation of the obligations”. Before the end of 2002, developed-countries are to submit detailed reports on how their incentives are functioning in practice.

Implementation: immediately
Developed countries reports: by end 2002

> more ...

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Cross-cutting issues 

(section 12)  

Under “cross-cutting issues”, the Implementation Decision — like the Doha Declaration — mandates the Trade and Development Committee to identify which special and differential treatment provisions are mandatory, and to consider the implications of making mandatory those that are currently non-binding.

The decision instructs the committee to examine additional ways in which special and differential treatment provisions can be made more effective, and how developing countries may be assisted to make best use of these provisions.

The decision mandates the committee to consider how special and differential treatment may be incorporated in the new negotiations.

The Trade and Development Committee will make its recommendations to the General Council before July 2002.

Also under “cross-cutting issues”, the decision refers to preferences granted by developed countries to developing countries under the “Enabling Clause”. That clause, agreed by GATT members in 1979, allows developed countries to give non-reciprocal differential and more favourable treatment (such as zero or low duties on imports) to developing countries. The clause allows preference-giving countries to unilaterally determine which countries and which products are included in their preference schemes.

The decision urges developed countries to grant preferences in a generalized and non-discriminatory manner, i.e. to all developing countries rather than to a selected group.

> more ...

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Outstanding implementation issues 

(section 13)  

This brief section simply says that all outstanding implementation issues are to be handled under paragraph 12 of the main Doha Declaration.

> paragraph 12 explained ...

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Final provisions 

(section 14)  

The ministers ask the WTO Director-General to ensure that WTO technical assistance focuses — as a priority — on assisting developing countries to implement existing WTO obligations, and  on increasing their capacity to participate more effectively in future multilateral trade negotiations.

They also say the WTO Secretariat should cooperate more closely with international and regional intergovernmental organisations so as to increase efficiency and synergies in carrying out this mandate.