DECEMBER 2008 PACKAGE: BRIEFING NOTES
Other Doha issues
The Doha declaration contains 20 chapters. Every chapter is part of a whole and indivisible package and cannot be agreed separately. "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".
The note below highlights some issues that will not be discussed at the 21 July 2008 meeting but are of significant importance for the Doha round of negotiations.
Other briefing notes:
> Director-General's letter to journalists
> Non-agricultural market access (NAMA)
> Intellectual property
> Other Doha issues
> Aid for Trade
> Jargon buster
> Country groupings
> Trade and environment negotiations
> Trade facilitation negotiations
> Dispute settlement negotiations
> Work on special and differential provisions
> Doha declaration
> Doha declaration explained
Trade and environment — Stronger links between trade and environment
At Doha, members agreed to negotiate on greater market opening in environmental goods and services; on the relationship between WTO rules and trade obligations set out in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and on the exchange of information between those institutions.
On the issue of trading environmental goods, three proposals are currently being discussed: a list approach (agreeing on a list of goods selected for their environment-friendliness which will benefit from lower tariffs), a project approach (lists the public and private entities that carry out environmental activities. All goods imported by the entities would benefit from lower tariffs) and a request/offer approach. Moreover, two members proposed to establish a sectoral agreement for about 40 products having a positive impact on climate change (which means that no tariff would be applied on those goods). At this stage of the negotiations, all the proposals remain on the table.
There is a strong convergence on the framework proposed to enhance cooperation with MEAs. Concrete suggestions have been made regarding information exchange sessions with MEAs possibly through annual sessions, document exchange, and future collaboration in the context of technical assistance and capacity-building activities. As regards observer status, the proposals set out criteria that could guide WTO committees in their consideration of requests for observer status by MEAs.
Regarding the mutual supportiveness between trade and environment rules, a number of proposals include, for instance, the importance of national coordination between trade and environment experts, and the value of national experience-sharing to enhance the mutually supportive relationship of trade and environment.
Trade facilitation — Cutting red tape at the border back to top
The aim is to ease trade flows and customs procedures and to facilitate the movement, release and clearance of goods. More specifically, members will clarify and improve three articles of GATT relating to transit, fees and formalities (paperwork and documentation) connected with trade, and transparency of regulations. This is an important addition to the overall negotiation since it would cut bureaucracy and corruption in customs procedures and would speed up trade and make it cheaper by saving millions of dollars.
Hundreds of proposals have been submitted for this purpose, some of them refined several times and almost ready to become parts of the draft agreement. Several coalitions of members, both developing and developed, have been formed after identification of common goals. Several international organizations, including the World Bank and the World Customs Organization, participate in the negotiations as observers. The World Bank is helping developing countries to identify their needs with the aim of providing technical assistance to modernize customs administrations.
All countries are actively involved in the negotiations since everybody is aware of the importance of the issue of trade facilitation in light of the increase of trade around the world. Developing countries are ready to participate as long as the agreement does not involve heavy obligations for them and as long as technical assistance, as contemplated in the mandate, is provided.
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Special and differential treatment — Stronger support for development
The WTO agreements contain special provisions which give developing countries special rights and allow other members to treat them more favourably. These are "special and differential treatment provisions" (abbreviated as S&D or SDT). The special provisions include:
- longer time periods for implementing agreements and commitments
- measures to increase trading opportunities for these countries
- provisions requiring all WTO members to safeguard the trade interests of developing countries
- support to help developing countries build the infrastructure to undertake WTO work, handle disputes, and implement technical standard
- provisions related to least-developed country (LDC) members
In the Doha Declaration, ministers agreed that all special and differential treatment provisions should be reviewed, in order to strengthen them and make them more precise, effective and operational.
Numerous proposals were made by developing and least-developed countries. Most proposals came from the African Group and the group of least-developed countries. They usually identify parts of an agreement and suggest new wording to introduce new S&D provisions for developing countries or to strengthen existing ones. They relate to most WTO agreements, including the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the GATT and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
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Improvement of the dispute settlement system
In November 2001, at the Doha Ministerial Conference, members agreed to negotiate to improve and clarify the dispute settlement system. The negotiations are not formally part of the single undertaking, which means they are not legally tied to the success or failure of the other negotiations mandated by the declaration.
Many proposals have been submitted on several aspects of the system, such as time-periods, third-party rights, remand, retaliation, transparency, sequencing, compositions of panels, time savings, etc. During the negotiations, all governments have stressed how well the system has served them as the backbone to the whole multilateral trading system.