TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov09/06)
6 November 2009
Third World Network

WTO NAMA Negotiating Group to hold a week of talks
Published in SUNS #6805 dated 2 November 2009

Geneva, 30 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- The WTO Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-agricultural Products (NAMA) is to hold a week of discussions beginning 2 November on several issues including Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).

According to trade officials, the NAMA week (from 2-6 November) gets under way on Monday with an informal session open to all Members in order to provide an opportunity for the Members and the Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, to report on the work of the last few weeks.

The Group last met at a two-day informal meeting in the third week of September with the Chair concluding that the two-day session that focused on technical work on NTBs and the sectoral initiative had achieved "a little progress".

According to trade officials, following the open-ended meeting on Monday, the Group is expected to discuss the issue of NTBs, in particular, two papers - one, the Framework for Industry-specific NTB Proposals (submitted by India and the EC); and the other, the Decision on the elimination of non-tariff barriers imposed as unilateral trade measures (TN/MA/W/94/Rev. 2, submitted by Cuba).

(The Cuban submission proposes that Members not adopt or apply any unilateral economic or trade measure against any other Member if it is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the WTO Agreements. The proposal further states that: "Members shall eliminate all such unilateral trade measures, ... within the first year following the adoption of this Decision, thereby enhancing market access opportunities, in particular for developing countries, and they shall notify this fact in writing to the Council for Trade in Goods."

(The Cuban proposal calls on Members to regularly review their non-tariff measures to ensure that they do not constitute disguised restrictions on international trade. No Member shall apply any trade measure against another Member if it affects the commercial interests or the rights and obligations of third parties.

(It further calls on Members seeking to apply any unilateral coercive measure to notify to the Council for Trade in Goods of their intention in writing, indicating the nature of the measure and its legal basis, scope and objectives, so that Members' considerations can be taken into account.)

Other NTB issues are also expected to be discussed during the week. The Chair is also expected to hold consultations on NTBs on Wednesday.

Following the conclusion of discussions on these issues, Members are expected to devote the remaining time to bilateral and plurilateral meetings. The Chair is then expected to convene another informal open-ended meeting on Friday to close the week of discussions.

The Chair is also expected to conduct bilateral or small-group consultations during the week on specific issues to enable him to receive guidance from Members. These issues include NTBs, preference erosion, the sectoral initiative, case-specific flexibilities (concerning Argentina, Venezuela and South Africa), and scheduling issues.

According to trade diplomats, with respect to NTBs, the Chair is seeking the views of Members on the next steps in the process.

On the sectoral initiative, said trade diplomats, the Chair is seeking Members' views on the on-going process and whether any of the 14 sectors proposed looks promising. In addition, he is seeking further discussion on whether to maintain sectors in their present form, or should there be an exploration of the idea of small sub-sectors or sub-sets of tariff lines.

On the issue of case-specific flexibilities, trade diplomats said that the Chair is expected to raise the issue of whether Members are of the view that specific solutions for Argentina and Venezuela can be devised in the absence of consensus on other issues in the NAMA package. Also, whether there is a basis to pursue work on finding a solution for South Africa. +