market access negotiations
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“I detected more movement,” the Chair said at the meeting of the Negotiating Group on Market Access, comparing members' interest in negotiating on non-tariff barriers against interest in negotiations on tariff cuts.

Issues like technical barriers to trade, which include product regulations, and proposals to improve transparency of measures could fall under these discussions based on the consultations, the Chair said. He further advised members to consider incremental steps rather than “major leaps” in the short term.

He clarified, however, that his consultations also revealed there is no unanimity so far in support of such discussions. Furthermore, some members foresee difficulty in concluding a binding agreement in this area, the Chair said.

As for possible negotiations for market access, which could include reductions of tariffs on non-agricultural goods, the Chair said talks at this point have “no traction”.

Some members, the Chair said, would like to focus on developing local industries, and for them, this would not entail tariff cuts. Other members, meanwhile, would like to focus on reducing tariff ceilings to enhance the predictability of the trading system. Still others are willing to engage only if talks on tariff cuts go further than lowering ceilings. Another group of members were of the view that these talks were best lent to plurilaterals, where some — but not all — WTO members are involved but where results are extended to all WTO members on a most-favoured-nation (MFN) basis. Several members, however, believe that such plurilaterals as well as regional trade negotiations have been diverting interest from negotiations in the multilateral setting. As such, members' positions remain difficult to reconcile, the Chair said.

Overall, there has been “no substantive change nor evolution” in positions, he said, adding that “no papers have been submitted to this negotiating group in a very long time.”

Several members then took the floor. Some spoke in favour of discussions on non-tariff barriers. On the other hand, some members said this could be premature and should not be used as a shortcut to achieve comprehensive outcomes in non-agricultural market access.

Members also debated again the benefit of plurilateral negotiations. Some members said they were open to plurilaterals while others said this format should be the exception and not the rule.

Several members called for negotiations to respect special and differential treatment, as well as less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments, for developing and least-developed country members.

The Chair, in response, encouraged members to exchange ideas and explore new ways to advance negotiations.

“My recommendation to members, particularly to members who want to advance the file, is to continue in their efforts to develop new ideas and to garner support for those ideas,” the Chair said.

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