THIS NEWS ITEM IS DESIGNED TO HELP THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE WTO. WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS’ POSITIONS.
He told an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee, which comprises the full membership, that he would try to
capture as much of the convergence as possible in the revisions, “but
obviously issues that still remain to be resolved may be left out at
He promised that the changes will reflect what has emerged from members’ discussions under his chairmanship or those of agriculture negotiations chairperson Crawford Falconer and non-agricultural market access talks chairperson Don Stephenson. As usual, that would mean “no surprises”.
Mr Lamy said he and the negotiating-group chairs would take up the other issues urgently during the day, using a range of types of meeting within the “concentric circles” structure of small and large meetings, and returning to a meeting of the full membership.
WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell told a press conference that some of the meetings would be among a group of seven delegations, before the issues are taken to a larger Green Room) meeting of about 30 representative delegations.
After many long days of hard work and with time running short, members’ comments in today’s informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting showed “a degree of intensity”, Mr Rockwell said. “I would say many of them were of a testy nature.”
The daily informal meetings of the full membership took a break on Sunday 27 July, but members continued their intensive discussions in various forms.
Mr Lamy said the discussion of the previous two days had focused on issues other than those in the package of issues he listed in his report on Saturday 26 July. Therefore today’s report to the membership dealt with these other issues.
Mr Lamy reported “important progress” overall. (For an explanation see the unofficial guide to the 10 July 2008 agriculture draft, available here)
Tropical products: broad agreement on the list of products and convergence on how these would be treated (the accelerated and deeper tariff cuts)
Preference erosion: broad agreement that the approach will be similar to the one used for industrial products but with some variations, and broad convergence on the list of products
Least-developed countries: an understanding that the text on this will be identical to that in the non-agricultural market access text
Sensitive products for developing countries: a number of options to be included in the revised draft so that developing countries have an “array of alternatives” including the ability to designate sensitive products without expanding tariff-rate quotas (developed countries would have to expand the quotas and might not be allowed to designate a product as sensitive unless it already has a tariff-rate quota)
The present special safeguard (SSG): developing countries currently eligible to use this type of safeguard would be allowed to keep it for 2.5% of products (their “tariff lines”) — 5% for small and vulnerable economies — and only for those products that are currently eligible. (For developed countries the SSG safeguard could be phased out completely. The SSG is not the same as the new special safeguard mechanism — SSM — for developing countries)
In-quota tariffs: a broad understanding that those below 5% will go to zero, the rest will have a 50% cut but will also be subject to a maximum level, which has not yet been agreed. For developing countries further details have been developed for special products. Some of these could have no tariff cut. If there is a tariff quota, that means no cut on the out-of-quota tariff. The latest understanding is that in-quota tariffs would not be cut either. For all other special products the in-quota rate would be cut by 15% — but by 7% for small and vulnerable economies. No solution has been agreed on the maximum in-quota tariff for countries that recently joined the WTO (recently-acceded members or RAMs)
• Overall trade-distorting domestic support for developing countries: Least-developed countries and net-food importing developing countries will not be subject to a limit on this, unless they have “Blue Box” support, because they would not be required to “schedule” (include in their list of commitments) the overall support. Those using the Blue Box would have to notify the WTO.
Blue Box support per product: Net food-importing developing countries and least developed countries would only have limits set on Blue Box support for a product (by “scheduling” or listing the amount among its commitments) if the support for that product in the base period is more than 75% of the country’s overall Blue Box support (the figure is 30% for developing countries in general); and the actual support given would have to be no more than 25% of actual overall Blue Box support (10% for other developing countries).
Export prohibitions and restrictions: transparency provisions will be improved
Tariff-quota “underfill mechanism”: these are provisions dealing with situations where quotas are consistently not filled. Some developing countries are willing to accept the need to share information and discuss why their quotas are not fully used but they do not want to be obliged to change the way they allocate quotas — the wording of the present draft could be altered to take account of this (paragraph 4 of the draft’s Annex E)
Export subsidies and other export competition issues: all issues except one seem settled. The remaining question is “monetization” — selling food donations in order to raise cash for nutritional or other purposes. Some of the wording of the text will be revised. Apart from that, convergence has been achieved on exporting state trading enterprises (on eliminating their monopoly power) and on phasing out the quantities of exports that are subsidized (the base period for “volume commitments” will be 2003—2005)
Mr Lamy said remaining issues where consultations continue include:
cotton; the creation of new tariff-rate quotas (which would determine
which products can be called “sensitive” since these products have to
have tariff quotas); tariff simplification (from more complex forms of
tariffs, mainly into percentages of the price). These now have to be
solved politically, Mr Lamy said.
He added that he hopes to report progress on cotton soon. Members are strongly committed to what they agreed in the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Conference and not to leave this until the last minute, he said.
Non-agricultural market access
(For an explanation “the July 2008 NAMA modalities text made simple”)
Duty-free quota-free market access for least-developed countries: revised wording will ensure meaningful market access (among the 97% of products that countries will make duty-free and quota-free)
Non-reciprocal preferences: more products added to the US and EU lists of products to be given preferences
Various countries’ specific concerns: Bolivia will not be required to notify the Goods Council periodically under its special treatment; Mongolia will be treated as a low-income economy in transition; the concern of South Africa and its Southern African Customs Union (SACU) partners is recognized but no agreement yet on exactly how much flexibility South Africa should be given; no convergence but continuing consultations on Venezuela’s call to be treated as a small and vulnerable economy, and those of Oman and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Sectoral liberalization: members agree that this will be voluntary and are working on new wording
Small and vulnerable economies: progress has been made and convergence is close. The remaining political question is the target average tariff level in the top two bands
Product coverage: “there appears to be growing convergence to remove the brackets in the footnote” — that would allow countries some small variation in which products they consider to be “non-agricultural”
Recent new members: opinions differ on whether the recently-acceded members (RAMs) should have three or four years longer than others to implement the agreement
Mr Lamy also described the services signalling conference on Saturday 26 July as an important step towards getting a sense of what this part of the final Doha Round agreement might look like.
As before, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre
reported on his
consultations. He said members still have a
considerable way to go to find agreement and encapsulate it in a text.
He said he had continued to explore possible ways forward, taking into account members’ differences on questions such as whether negotiations on these subjects would be part of the Doha Round “single undertaking” and the legal form of the outcome. Mr Støre said he would call a meeting among the delegations he has consulted, in the afternoon.
His consultations are on three intellectual property issues: the multilateral register for wines’ and spirits’ geographical indications (GIs), extending higher level geographical indications protection beyond wines and spirits (“GI extension”), and proposals to require patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic material and traditional knowledge (“disclosure”) — formally the relationship between the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). (See explanations here.)
Members expressed their opinions on issues that concerned them, such as
various aspects of the agriculture and non-agriculture texts — including
differing views on preferences (a range of issues in agriculture and
non-agricultural market access centring on who receives preferences, for
which products and the effect of general tariff reductions) and bananas
(where a compromise is being negotiated between exporters having
preferences, those without preferences and major importers such as the
EU), and whether allowing developing countries additional flexibility to
protect (through special products and the special safeguard mechanism)
is necessary for development because of the vulnerability of poor
farmers, or whether it would hold up development by hampering poor
farmers’ ability to produce for export.
Some had comments on the negotiating process, including whether the compromise on some key points worked out over the past few days should be renegotiated or whether doing that would harm chances of reaching agreement.
Today’s speakers in the informal Trade Negotiations Committee were:
Guyana, Norway, India, the US, China, Switzerland, Cameroon, Argentina,
Lesotho, Indonesia, Paraguay, Chinese Taipei, Turkey, El Salvador,
Bolivia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Uganda, Ecuador, Senegal, Hong
Kong China, Tanzania, Cuba, Bangladesh, Nepal, Zambia, Rwanda, Angola,
Uruguay, Viet Nam, Haiti, Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi.
Texts of some of the statements — those supplied by delegations for publication on the website — can be found here.
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