The chair, drawing from what he has heard in some 30 bilateral meetings with members on non-agricultural market access (NAMA), said that members’ feedback broadly fell within three categories. A large group of members would like to continue talks on non-agricultural tariffs and non-tariff barriers (NTBs) while also working in parallel on other remaining Doha issues, such as agriculture. These members, he said, have pointed to Paragraph 31 in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration, which states that there is “a strong commitment of all members to advance negotiations on remaining Doha issues,” including on NAMA.
Meanwhile, there are also those who no longer see negotiations at the WTO as the best forum for cutting tariffs, except possibly in a plurilateral set-up which includes some, but not all, members. In addition, a third group, comprised of a few members, is “indifferent” towards further work on NAMA, as they are instead keen to maintain their policy space for encouraging industrialization amid an already difficult economic environment.
“In my view, the main challenge for members on NAMA will be how to build convergence in a situation where, on the one hand, not all members have the same appetite to pursue NAMA negotiations in the WTO and, on the other hand, we have to assume that without NAMA there may not be any negotiated outcome in other areas,” he said.
“From what I have heard, the general ambition level seems clearly reduced compared to the discussions we had a year ago,” the chair said.
The chair’s reading of negotiators’ sentiments was reflected in the interventions members made later in the meeting.
Members spoke about differences over whether future talks would be best served on a plurilateral level, flexibilities for developing countries, and links of NAMA negotiations to other Doha issues — particularly agriculture.
Some developed country members noted that multilateral negotiations, while important to the WTO, cannot realistically lead to tariff reductions if they are the only ones made to bear obligations, while competitors from developing countries insist on flexibilities and refuse binding commitments. These members pointed to the success of plurilateral initiatives, such as the recent expansion of the Information Technology Agreement and the ongoing negotiations for an Environmental Goods Agreement. One member, in particular, proposed that plurilaterals be pursued so long as these have a clear sectoral coverage, be of interest to both developed and developing countries and industries, have high economic importance, and include inputs for production.
Several developing country members, however, said that multilateral negotiations must be given a chance to pick up, with some noting that NAMA issues should be taken in balance with other Doha Round issues, including agriculture. Some members further said any future work on NAMA should maintain the goal of development at its core, as well as ensure that special and differential (S&D) treatment favouring developing countries and less-than-full reciprocity in reduction commitments be kept integral. This should also be the case for plurilaterals or sectorals, one member said. A proposal to hold a workshop to explore solutions for NTBs garnered some support as did interest in obtaining more technical information.
In closing, the chair invited members to put forward written input on possible ways forward. He also gave assurances that he will remain in close contact with Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and other chairs of negotiating groups to anchor NAMA work with other issues.
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