TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Sept09/14)
24 September 2009
Third World Network

Members urged to provide "signals" on crucial NAMA issues
Published in SUNS #6775 dated 18 September 2009

Geneva, 17 Sep (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products (NAMA) on Wednesday called on members to provide him with "signals" on several crucial aspects of the NAMA negotiations such as the sectoral approach, Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), preference erosion and the country-specific problems of South Africa, Argentina and Venezuela.

The call by the Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, came at an informal open-ended meeting of the negotiating group, which was also attended by some senior officials from capitals.

This is the first meeting of the negotiating group following the summer recess and comes just after the New Delhi Ministerial meeting on 3-4 September.

According to trade officials, there was no consensus among members on the Chair's question of whether he should get involved in the sectoral aspect of the NAMA negotiations.

Some delegations cautioned of the dangers in reopening some "stable" texts (such as on preference erosion) or reopening or renegotiating some aspects of the mandate (such as the link between the coefficients in the formula and flexibilities and their application by developing countries).

According to trade officials, there were also calls from members for transparency in some of the on-going bilateral meetings as well as for maintaining a truly multilateral approach throughout. There were also calls for respecting the mandate as a guiding principle.

Members accepted the Chair's road-map for the coming days on technical work mostly on NTBs.

Japan said that there is a need to agree on the modalities this year.

According to trade officials, Argentina said the fact that they have a "specific problem" is because the mandate of the NAMA negotiations has not been respected, with regards to less than full reciprocity on reduction commitments, on flexibilities for developing countries and on the level of ambition agreed at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference between agriculture and NAMA.

Brazil said that proponents of the sectoral initiative have a long way to go in convincing them and others that they are doable and of interest to some members.

The US said that bilateral meetings are a way to fill some large gaps still remaining but they should not be seen as a substitute for the multilateral process.

According to trade officials, South Africa rejected calls from Japan, Singapore and the EC for involvement by the Chair in the sectoral negotiations.

Hong Kong-China and India noted the political resolve emanating from the recent Delhi ministerial meeting.

Hong Kong-China asked for this resolve to be translated into the negotiations.

According to trade officials, India said that a large number of issues have been stabilized and the December 2008 text reflects this.

Mexico said that sectorals is the most important issue to be resolved.

In concluding the meeting, the Chair urged the proponents of the sectoral initiative to provide an overview on where they stand, what their plans for the future are and an assessment of the chances of success of this initiative.

Speaking after the meeting, the Chair said that the tree of the NAMA negotiations is still blossoming but that it would be some time before the fruit is ripe and ready to be eaten.

The next NAMA session has been scheduled for 23 and 24 September, with the work concentrating mostly on NTBs. +