TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar09/03)
10 March 2009
Third World Network

NAMA Group to push forward on technical work
Published in SUNS #6651 Tuesday 3 March 2009

Geneva, 2 Mar (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products (NAMA) on Friday received a go-ahead to his proposal to push forward on technical work, trade officials said after an informal meeting of the Group.

The Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, had reported to the informal meeting on his recent consultations on issues related to the sectoral initiative and Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).

On the sectoral initiative, Ambassador Wasescha told the meeting, the proponents of the different sectors would engage their trading partners in studying the technical aspects of each sector, make a country-by-country analysis and study the relevant data.

On the issue of NTBs (paragraph 24 of the 6 December 2008 draft modalities text), the Chair concluded that after eight years of negotiations, there is an awareness that a lot of work still needs to be done. Work would be done in bilateral and plurilateral discussions to update or even merge texts.

(According to a developing-country participant at the informal meeting, members are just engaging in dialogue without making any firm commitments. The trade diplomat noted that the United States, a major player in the NAMA negotiations, has yet to appoint a US Trade Representative and a Commerce Secretary. It has also not yet held consultations with its domestic constituencies on its trade policy.)

According to trade officials, there were two interventions after the Chair's remarks.

The EC clarified its position at a recent meeting at which NTBs were discussed. The EC said that it has not dropped its proposal on "export taxes".

According to trade officials, the EC said that, as explained in the December text, there are a number of NTB proposals that have been selected as a priority in the negotiation and export taxes is not one of them. It will be for the proponents to see if any of those which have not been selected would gather support in the future.

Cuba said that it does not accept paragraph 24 because it does not cover Cuba's interests.

(According to trade officials, Cuba is seeking inclusion in the selection of NTBs its proposal for "unilateral trade measures" - including the US economic blockade against Cuba - to be treated as an NTB).

Cuba said that if the paragraph is not amended, it is not going to approve the final text.

Speaking to journalists after the informal meeting, the NAMA Chair said that work on both the sectoral initiative and NTBs will be carried forward by the coordinators of each sector and of each NTB proposal.

The Swiss envoy also said that the EC said that they are not withdrawing their proposal on export taxes but flagged their readiness to withdraw it if the work is pursued on the basis of the July package.

In response to a question on this issue, the Chair said that very few delegations expressed themselves on the EC position. "They didn't seem to be inclined to offer their hands for a deal at this stage," said the Chair.

Ambassador Wasescha noted that export taxes are not within the seven priority items that have been identified to be addressed first in the NTB negotiations.

As to the future work, the Chair told journalists that the proponents and coordinators of the sectoral initiative and the coordinators of the NTB proposals will go into detailed work, and once there is a clear view on how to answer the questions of those who are not among the proponents, there will be an informal meeting of the full membership to inform them on where they stand.

The Chair added that at the informal meeting on Friday, nobody used the opportunity to inform the full membership about the specific work undertaken.

On the sectoral issue, the Chair said that he had not scheduled any meetings until the coordinators of the sectors tell him that they would like to have an open-ended meeting.

The Chair told journalists that he intends to organize further meetings in May. +