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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct04/8)

14 October 2004

Third World Network

WTO’s Trade Negotiations Committee establishes negotiating group on trade facilitation and reviews overall negotiations

The WTO’s Trade Negotiations Committee, which oversees the negotiations in various areas in the Doha work progamme, met on 12 October for the first time since the July decision of the General Council.

Its main decision was to establish a negotiating group on trade facilitation and elect its chair, the Malaysian Ambassador, Yacob Muhamad Noor.   The meeting also reviewed and discussed the state of negotiations on various issues, including services, agriculture and non-agriculture market access (NAMA).

Below is a report by Goh Chien Yen on the TNC meeting.

With best wishes

Martin Khor

TWN

 

 

 

 

MEETING OF THE WTO’s TRADE NEGOTIATIONS COMMITTEE ESTABLISHES NEGOTIATING GROUP ON TRADE FACILITATION, DISCUSSES VARIOUS ISSUES

TWN Reprt by Goh Chien Yen, Geneva, 13 October 2004

 

Introduction

The Trade Negotiations Committee of the WTO met on 12 October 2004 for the first time since the adoption of the July Package by the member states of the organization. Broadly, the meeting provided the opportunity for the TNC chair (who is the Director General of the WTO Dr Supachai) and members to air their views as to how the negotiating work is to proceed in the coming months bearing in mind the 6th Ministerial Conference that will be held in Hong Kong at the end of 2005.

Trade Facilitation

The TNC meeting saw the establishment of the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation and the appointment of its first chairperson.

At the General Council meeting which on 31 July adopted the July Package, members had agreed to commence negotiations on trade facilitation on the basis of modalities set out in Annex D of the July Package.

Malaysian Ambassador to the WTO Mr Yacob Muhamad Noor was formally appointed as Chairperson of the Negotiations on Trade Facilitation by the WTO members at the meeting. His nomination was unofficially endorsed by delegates earlier last week during an informal HOD (Heads of Delegation) meeting . The appointment of the new Chair for Trade facilitation had been delayed due to the earlier inability among the members to agree on who would be the Chair.  Another candidate had been Amb. Mazoor Ahmed of Pakistan who had apparently been the choice of some countries, among them the US and EU..

Soon after his election, Amb. Noor informed the TNC that he would soon he holding informal consultations for a meeting of the Negotiating Group and a work program.

Dr. Supachai also informed the TNC that Amb. Valles Galmés of Uruguay will be the new chair for the Negotiating Group on Rules at the forthcoming General Council meeting on the 20th Oct 2004.  He is to replace Amb Pérez Motta of Mexico who has left Geneva.

During their intervention, the African Group reiterated “the need for a transparent and inclusive process in the negotiations” and restated “the need for the provision of technical assistance and support for capacity building for developing countries” as contained in Annex D of the July Package.

The African Group also called on the IMF and the World Bank, in pursuant to their letter to the WTO “to provide the needed technical assistance to enable developing countries to participate meaningfully in the negotiations.”

How To Proceed?

In his opening speech as Chair of the TNC, Dr Supachai said that  “in many areas of the negotiations, the work in the coming weeks will be of a somewhat technical nature. It is only once work has advanced considerably that we will be able to look towards the next steps for the Doha Development Agenda with any clarity. I think it would be premature to try now to plan in detail what should happen in 2005. To do that at this stage would be a somewhat speculative exercise. In my view, we should be very prudent about launching a major procedural debate too early.”

He added that “...the spring of next year would...be an appropriate moment to review the progress in [the] technical work and to start to set out the level of ambition for the Hong Kong [ministerial meeting].

Nonetheless, Dr Supachai pointed out that the technical work between now and spring 2005 should not decelerate and meetings will be held regularly to ensure that. In this regard, he informed members that the next meeting of the TNC will be held on the 9th Dec and that “all negotiating bodies would have met again at least once more” before that.

Chile said that negotiations should be finalized 6 to 8 months after the 6th ministerial conference in Hong Kong next year. Brazil said that members should achieve modalities by that ministerial.

On the other hand, perhaps given its domestic political process with the presidential elections, the US was of the view that it is too soon for detailed plans for the 6th Ministerial.

Concerning the management of the technical work in the upcoming months, Nigeria speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed “the need to plan the meetings of the different negotiating bodies in a way that they are not juxataposed but are fairly planned to enable small delegations to attend and contribute.”

Kenya underscored the need for the different chairpersons to “establish clear schedule of meetings on technical issues well in advance [in order] to allow for adequate time for small delegations to respond and participate effectively.”

Kenya also reminded the TNC that in past approaches some of the chairs had allowed a “few members have played key roles while leaving the majority out of the process” and therefore this should be avoided and they should be committed to a “transparent and all inclusive process.”

 

Substantive Matters

On Services

The TNC also heard progress reports from the Chairs of the Special Session on Services, ,TRIPS and the Dispute Settlement Body. Given the absence of some of the chairpersons, reports of the other negotiating bodies were presented by Supachai.

Amb.  Jara who is the chairperson for services, noted the renewed momentum of members in negotiations. However, he pointed out that 50 odd members have not come up with offers. He urged members to do so if the dateline for revised offers set on in the July Package is not to be missed. His report TN/S/17 is available on the WTO website.

The African Group expressed their desire “to see meaningful progress in the negotiations on sectors and modes of supply of export interest to developing countries” and added that “the provisions of targeted technical assistance as contained in Annex C” of the July Package “should be a priority.” This was supported by Indonesia and other developing country members.

On NAMA

In the absence of Amb. Johannesson, the Chairperson for the Negotiating Group on Market Access, Supachai presented an overview of the progress made in this area. Based on the report he received from Amb Johannesson, Supachai informed the TNC that the work done focused on the following four issues:  i) the structure of future work; ii) the elements of modalities on which the Group should focus; iii) technical issues requiring further work in the group and iv) technical input by the Secretariat.

On the modalities, according to Supachai, some members want to focus on the formula, sectoral tariff elimination approach  and flexibilities, while others felt that the formula is “first among equals.”

On the third point regarding technical issues, Supachai said that the members wanted more clarification on the methodology to be used to calculate ad valorem equivalents and the treatment of unbound tariffs.

Supachai noted the numerous requests made by members for the Secretariat on technical work such as updating earlier documents and also conducting additional briefing sessions.

Finally on NTBs, Supachai urged members to make their notifications by 31 Oct 2004 in accordance to the NAMA framework. He also informed that TNC that it was agreed that a review would be undertaken on any new or revised notifications, and that the Secretariat would hold a briefing session on NTBs at the Group’s next meeting.

He further informed the members that the next NAMA meetings will take place from the 8th to 11th Nov and from the 6th to 8th December respectively.

On NAMA, Nigeria reminded members of the difficult negotiations on NAMA prior to the adoption of the July Package and highlighted therefore the importance of para 1 of the Annex B to the July Package to the African Group. “The inclusion of paragraph 1 to the Annex B of the Package gave us hope and assurance that our concerns would be addressed as a priority in the development of modalities,” Nigeria informed the TNC.

In this regard the African Group wants the issues contained therein paragraph 1 to be “clarified and addressed as a priority.” Some of the key concerns are “S and D, less than full reciprocity, sectoral approach, loss of customs revenue, de-industralisation in Africa and autonomous liberalization.”

The approach of focusing the discussions on the technical issues of the elements stipulated in paragraph 1 of Annex B of the July package was supported by Indonesia.

According to Indonesia, “members could start the negotiations on  the formula, flexibilities, sectorial elimination, S&D and the principle of less than full reciprocity... the issues of non-tariff measures (NTBs) should also be tackled in parallel.”

Indonesia also proposed that the discussions on NAMA “need to be more structured instead of leaving the discussions to the Members themselves to organize.”

On Agriculture

Based on the report he received from Amb Groser, chair of the special session on agriculture, Supachai presented an overview to the TNC of the recent work done on the agriculture negotiations.

According to Groser’s report, Supachai informed members that “it will be necessary to lay down a solid technical basis and common understanding of the terms used, approaches and principles set out in the framework. This will also ...require a considerable amount of factual input from the Secretariat.”

As such he added, “the immediate focus is on addressing technical issues arising from the Agreed Framework.”

In addition, Supachai, referring to Groser’s report, told members that further discussions on agriculture, “will have to be text-based in order to be effective,” in other words “to progressively develop stand alone texts on a wide range of issues.” Supachai also noted delegations’ indication that work “should proceed in a balanced manner across three pillars of market access, domestic support and export competition, with special and differential treatment being integral to all elements and with non-trade concerns to be taken into account.”

Indonesia highlighted the need for the agriculture negotiations to be structured and approach in an appropriate manner.  “In our view, the future work program must ensure that negotiations on core elements of the framework take precedence over discussion on various exceptions. This however does not mean that S&D issues should not have priority. My delegation would like to emphasise that the issue of S&D is integral parts of all elements of the framework and thus an integral part of the discussion of both the core elements and the exceptions. This should be the general rule for all pillars in the agriculture negotiations,” Indonesia clarified.

Indonesia  (coordinator of the G33) also welcomed the incorporation of the concepts of Special Products (SP) and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), “as fundamental components of the special and differential treatment.”

According to Indonesia, “the objective is to provide much needed policy space for developing countries, to implement enabling policies to improve food security, rural development and rural livelihood, as well as to safeguarding farmers from the imbalances in agriculture trade, which has marginalised developing countries farmers for so many years.  In this connection, the design of the mechanism and treatment of the two concepts must be such that it would be simple to use, effective and transparent.”

On agriculture, Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reminded members that the DDA gave “S and D a central position in all elements of the negotiations” and the upcoming work should reflect this commitment. Nigeria also expressed the Group’s interests in having substantive discussions on treatment of NFIDCs, SP/SSM, long standing preference erosion and the treatment of food aid.

On the cotton issue, Nigeria proposed that it “should be a standing agenda item in the Agriculture special sessions with reports from the Cotton sub-committee reviewed at every session.”

Nigeria stressed the urgency of establishing this sub-committee as quickly as possible. Nigeria continued to make the following proposals in relation to the sub-committee:

i)    the sub-committee’s composition should be open-ended but with the main players including the proponents on board, ii) the sub-committee’s mandate should cover both development and trade aspects and these should be treated under all the pillars of agriculture, iii) with regards to the work, there should be a time-table with a list of issues to be prepared and circulated well in advance for limited delegations to prepare for the discussions.

Benin reiterated the Africa’s Group position on the establishment of a cotton sub-committee and further asked for technical assistance on understanding the agriculture issues, including on the 3 pillars.

Development and Policy Space to be Upheld In Negotiations

Kenya urged members to “bring development back to the forefront of the WTO negotiations as agreed in Doha. Doha acknowledged that some countries had undergone painful liberalisation experiences which had impacted negatively on their development. We therefore, cannot continue to sideline development and the July decision offers an opportunity to redeem the pledge made in Doha to resolve all development-related”

“To operationalise the development principle, it is not enough to provide lesser rates of tariff reduction, or longer implementation periods” said Kenya.  “Developing countries need adequate policy space that provides flexibility on policy options that will facilitate their economic growth and development.  Thus, future negotiations will have to fully take the development principle into account for the modalities to be acceptable to developing and least developed countries.”

According to Kenya “it is clear from the Doha Ministerial Declaration and General Council Decision that the main foundations and principles underlying these negotiations are the promotion of the special needs and interests of developing and least developed countries.  The special needs and interests are measures that will spur economic growth and development in developing and least developed countries. This must be reflected in the eventual modalities to be agreed upon.”

Nigeria, speaking for the Africa Group, said the group wanted to underscore the need to give more priority to all development related issues in the DDA and achieve meaningful outcomes in these areas to give real meaning to the name Doha Development Agenda.  “We need to make progress on all the agreement specific proposals on S and D and also on all implementation related issues.  We want to see an early completion of he amendment process on TRIPS and public health, and to make the temporary waiver solution permanent and predictable.”

 


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