TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jan07/06)

30 January 2007

NAMA meeting focuses on non trade barriers and sectorals  

The first NAMA meeting at the WTO this year focused on non trade barriers and "sectorals".  A report on this meeting is given below.  It was published in SUNS on 24 Jan.

This is the first of 2 articles on the NAMA meeting.

With best wishes
Martin Khor


Real progress needed on NTBs and sectorals, says NAMA Chair

 By Kanaga Raja (SUNS), Geneva, 23 Jan 2007

The Chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-agricultural Products (NAMA), in his first open-ended consultations of the new year, encouraged members to work harder on the issues of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and 'sectorals'.

"We need real progress here," said Ambassador Don Stephenson of Canada at the open-ended consultations on Monday.

He added that the two issues require a lot of technical work, and time to concretize.

The Chair however acknowledged that some members are reluctant to engage in discussions on sectorals (the elimination of tariffs in some sectors), as they see a direct link with the formula for tariff reduction and the overall ambition of the Round, which has not been set yet.

Others are waiting to see what will happen in the negotiations on agriculture.

On the NTBs, Cuba introduced a new paper (TN/MA/W/82) on measures and laws regulating the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States.

In its paper, Cuba listed in some detail the effects of the US measures and named some international companies affected by them.

The paper said that on 15 May 2006, Cuba had presented document TN/MA/W/71 (Non-Tariff Barriers Imposed by the United States Impeding and Prohibiting Cuba's Trade), which demonstrated the inconsistency of the laws and measures regulating the blockade against Cuba with the principles and rules governing the Agreements of the World Trade Organization


The laws and measures governing the blockade do not only, directly or indirectly, impede Cuba's economic, trade and financial performance but also affect other WTO Members' trade because of their extraterritorial nature.

In document TN/MA/W/71, Cuba had denounced the blockade imposed by the US and demonstrated both its inconsistency with the WTO principles, rules and obligations and its violation of Cuba's rights as a full Member of the Organization and the right of other Members to maintain normal trade relations with Cuba. The blockade therefore transcends the bilateral dimension and constitutes an issue of multilateral concern.

In its new paper presented on Monday, Cuba said that the core operational principle of the WTO is non-discrimination. Consequently, Cuba sees this as the appropriate forum to rule on the illegitimacy of the laws and measures regulating the blockade imposed on it by the US, since they violate the rights of a full Member of this Organization and those of third countries.

It is for this Negotiating Group, with its mandate to eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade, to consider the detrimental effects of the blockade policy which the US Government imposes on Cuba and other WTO Members, the paper said.

According to trade officials, Venezuela supported Cuba's position for the consideration of this blockade in the Negotiating Group.

The European Commission submitted several documents at the meeting: a response to some questions submitted by the US on labelling of textiles, apparel, footwear and travel goods; a set of questions to other members on NTBs related to textiles, clothing and footwear; on NTBs related to electronic products; a response to members' questions on the EC proposal for a mechanism to deal with NTBs; and a short "activity report" on export taxes.

According to trade officials, there were no comments on these documents.

On the question of mechanisms to deal with NTBs, the NAMA Chair said that despite the opinions expressed by some members that NTBs are becoming more important than tariffs, proposals were not forthcoming.

Several meetings have been scheduled over the next days. Japan has organized two meetings - one on electronics and electrical products, and the other on automobile and auto parts. The US has organized a meeting on chemicals while New Zealand is holding a meeting on fish and fish products. Canada meanwhile has organized a meeting on forest products.

The organizers of these meetings will be reporting back to the Negotiating Group.

Ambassador Stephenson is also planning to hold discussions on flexibilities to the formula (''paragraph 6''), treatment of Recently Acceded Members and multilateral verification of Ad Valorem Equivalents.