TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec04/4)

13 December 2004

Third World Network



The WTO’s Trade Negotiations Committee held a meeting on 10 December. At the meeting the TNC chair and WTO Director-General Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi announced that he would begin consultations at the start of 2005 to set objectives for the Hongkong Ministerial conference in December  2005.    The next TNC meeting, on 14 Feb. 2005, will discuss this issue.

The TNC meeting also heard reports and held discussions on the state of negotiations in various areas, including agriculture, NAMA, trade facilitation, services, S and D treatment and implementation issues. Below is a report by Goh Chien Yen on the TNC meeting.

With best wishes

Martin Khor








TWN Report by Goh Chien Yen, Geneva, 12 December 2004

The WTO Director General Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi announced during the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting on Friday 10 December that he will “launch a process of collective reflection which..will lead to an early common understanding on objectives for 2005, looking to the Hong Kong Ministerial and beyond.”

At the TNC meeting in October, the WTO members and Supachai, who is also the Chairman of the TNC, identified spring of 2005 as a possible point for reviewing progress and defining specific objectives for the Sixth Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong (to be held in December 2005).

However at this TNC meeting Supachai felt that it was “timely and appropriate” for the TNC at its first meeting next year, 14th Feb 2005, to “renew its collective consideration of the way forward for the Round as a whole,” given the recent development and indications. He informed members that he will therefore be holding consultations early next year with members on this issue.

The EU agreed with Supachai’s approach and said that the Doha Development Agenda is a top priority for them that should be concluded by 2006 and that the Hong Kong Ministerial must be a major staging post in this respect.

The TNC meeting then heard progress reports made by Chairpersons of the various negotiating bodies.

In the area of non-agriculture market access (NAMA), Amb Johannesson of Iceland who is the Chair of the Negotiating Group on NAMA informed the TNC that there is no real sense of progress. He noted that members have been airing their views in order to clarify and sharpen the issues. However, he said that it was now important for the negotiating group to intensify their pace of work. He advised members to move from making and seeking clarifications to preparing substantive proposals and to move from technical to ‘real’ negotiations.

Brazil reminded the TNC of the importance of the paragraph 1 of Annex B on NAMA of the July package. In this regard, Brazil said that “we must leave some central issues [in NAMA] open for discussions.”  Brazil explained that this was not for reasons to delay on procedural grounds but because of real political differences over the issues identified in paragraph 1 of Annex B such as over the formula, sectoral approach and flexibilities for developing countries.

Amb. Bernard Weston of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking on behalf of the ACP group to the TNC, insisted that “the NAMA negotiations should seek to deliver policy instruments; policy space; and targeted provisions, which facilitate the broadening of the narrow industrial base of its members; as well as safeguard the development.process.”

He also highlighted the need to operationalise the principle of less than full reciprocity “as articulated in paragraph 16 of the Doha mandate and consistent with Part IV as well as Article 36 of GATT.” Part IV of GATT is on “Trade and Development” and article 36 reiterates the “principles and objectives” of GATT in relation to development.

In the area of agriculture, Amb Tim Groser of New Zealand, noted that the agriculture negotiations had benefited from the amount of political attention it had received. This has provided a lot of guidance to the issues. He added that much work remained to be done and progress so far has not been significant. This is not because of political reasons, but rather due to the complex technical questions involved, he explained.

In his report to the TNC, Groser said there will be five “agriculture weeks” between February and July 2005 and that the next formal Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture will take place on Friday 17 December. This will be preceded by an informal Special Session on 15 December for a first reading of the tariff reduction formula and the Blue Box. In addition an informal open-ended consultation will be held on 13 and 14 Dec to discuss the special safeguard mechanism, the methodology for product specific AMS caps and the base/reference periods in the context of domestic support commitments.

In relation to services, Amb Jara of Chile who is the Chairperson of  the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services, informed the TNC of new offers coming from El Salvador, Malaysia and Egypt. Nonetheless, he highlighted in his progress report that “some 45 offers remain outstanding not including least-developed country Members.” “This is worrying,” he said, especially since some important countries have not submitted initial offers. He also pointed out that in terms of substance, negotiations in services was lagging behind  and if there was not clear progress by February, then it would be difficult to proceed towards the Hong Kong Ministerial. The Services Council will meet for three weeks from 7-25 February 2005.

Some developing country members of the ACP, while reiterating their commitment to the process, highlighted that the “services liberalisation undertaken thus far, invariably has not succeeded in redressing imbalances in supply-side capacity, efficiency and competitiveness which exist among members.” These countries also pointed out the “need for respect for the principle of progressive liberalisation.”

On the new issue of trade facilitation, Amb Nor Mohammad of Malaysia (who chairs the negotiating group on trade facilitation) informed the TNC that members have had two meetings. The meetings were educational in content with presentations being made by UNCTAD, the World Bank and the World Customs Organisation.  Members highlighted the importance of having special and differential treatment provisions for developing countries and that technical assistance must be at the heart of the negotiations, he told the TNC. The next meeting on trade facilitation will be held on 7-9 February 2005.

On the issue of development, the Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development, Faisel Ismail of South Africa, informed the TNC that there has not been much progress on the outstanding 88 special and differential treatment proposals. He advised that the negotiations could be more productive if the underlying issues of these proposals were dealt with instead.

The ACP country members reiterated their interest in “attaining an early harvest on the outstanding Agreement-specific S and D proposals.” They added that “what is central to the ACP is the need for S and D provisions to be of economic value, precise, effective and operational. The incorporation of S and D treatment into the architecture of WTO rules is also essential.”

On the implementation related issues and concerns, the Director General Dr. Supachai, informed the TNC that the “work is progressing on two tracks”: one for all outstanding paragraph 12(b) implementation issues and the other on the geographical indications extension issue.

In relation to the first track, he had requested the Chairpersons of concerned WTO bodies to act as his “friends.” They have been tasked with carrying consultations “on the scope for progress on the issues relevant to the WTO body they chair.”

The friends are Mr Tonini (BOP Committee); Mr Twyman (Customs Valuation Committee); Dr Farahat (Market Access Committee); Mr Drouet (Safeguards Committee); Mr Dalela (TBT Committee); MR Palayathan (TRIMS Committee); Mr Miller (TRIPS Council).

According to Supachai consultations conducted by his “friends” reveal that the “situation does not appear to have evolved much..[although] there does appear to be a willingness among delegations to engage.”

On the second track issue of GI extension, Supachai has appointed his Deputy Director General Thompson-Flores to conduct “a technical level process aimed at clarifying the issues.”

The next TNC meeting will be held on 14th February 2005.