TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (July09/07)
07 July 2009
Third World Network

NAMA Chair to hold consultations on road map for further work
Published in SUNS #6731 dated 1 July 2009

Geneva, 30 Jun (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products (NAMA) informed Members on Monday that he intends to hold consultations on a road map for the work of the Group in the autumn.

At an informal open-ended meeting of the Group, the Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, also said that he will be organizing a dedicated session on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) in the third week of September.

In the next few weeks, he will be holding bilateral meetings with Argentina, South Africa and Venezuela to see if there are any developments with respect to their specific issues.

According to trade officials, the Chair will also be convening an open-ended meeting before the General Council meeting of 28-29 July to report on the results of his consultations. He said that he assumed that the starting point for these discussions was the draft modalities text issued last December.

At the informal meeting on Monday, the Chair reported on his consultations since the last open-ended session in May (which had discussed NTBs). His consultations were mainly on the sectoral component of the negotiations.

According to trade officials, the Chair explained to Members the technical work that he is organizing in cooperation with the Secretariat concerning the preparation of schedules in electronic format (Electronic Negotiating Files), once modalities have been agreed.

Members that are coordinating the various sectoral initiatives also reported on their meetings.

According to trade officials, some Members still have concerns about their participation. The Chair noted that "work is moving forward" in this area of the negotiation.

Ambassador Peter Grey of Australia reported on the informal Ministerial consultations with about 25 Ministers held at the Australian embassy in Paris on the sidelines of the OECD Ministerial meeting last week.

Ambassador Grey said that in this and another recent meeting of the Cairns Group, the message is clear: avoid protectionism, complete the Doha Development Agenda and let's have political engagement to move matters forward.

The Australian envoy said that another clear message emerging from these meetings was "let's intensify our work even further". He hoped that senior officials would be involved very soon to make sure the negotiation intensifies.

Commenting on the Australian ambassador's report, the Chair said that it appears that the political climate has improved and there is enthusiasm to resume discussions/negotiations.

But he also cautioned that he will move forward provided that Members move forward with him. He pointed out that he needs a collective response to this question.

Speaking to journalists after the informal meeting, Ambassador Wasescha said that he wanted to make sure that the signals coming from different quarters in the last few days were adequately captured by Members.

He said that people want him to move forward but he stressed that he would only do that as long as others are ready to follow him. "People want me to move forward, but I am not yet sure whether they will follow me," he said.

In response to a question about stepping up work before the G20 meeting in September, the Chair said: "What is the purpose for me to move forward if the others are not following. I can move forward, yes, and produce a new text tomorrow but what's the utility if the delegations are not following."

Asked in what areas gaps need to be narrowed, the Chair said that there is a lot of work that needs to be done on NTBs; the specific cases of the specific countries where the big question is whether they are the only ones that are in specific situations or are there others having similar problems, and how do you match this with the ambitions of others; and the flexibilities needed by all Members.

The Chair expressed hope that Ministers will translate the current enthusiasm into flexible instructions to their delegations.

Asked about the overall formula for tariff reduction, he said that the big issue is where emerging markets apply their flexibilities.

He noted that the dimension of South-South trade is becoming more and more important. When looking at trade obstacles, one first looks at trade flows, which leads you to a situation that in some cases, some will wish to apply their flexibilities in South-South dimensions and not in North-South dimensions, he said.