TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb10/01)
1 February 2010
Third World Network

Swiss put forward Doha "checklist" for Davos Ministerial
Published in SUNS #6852 dated 29 January 2010

Geneva, 28 Jan (Kanaga Raja) -- The Swiss government, which is hosting an informal meeting of trade ministers on Saturday in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, has put forward a "checklist" of open issues for the Ministers to consider at their gathering.

The Swiss proposal for the Davos Ministerial contains a long list of issues for Ministerial consideration at the Davos gathering, in preparation, from the "Swiss point of view", for the stocktaking exercise slated to take place end-March on progress in the Doha Round.

Circulated in the form of a "non-paper", the Swiss checklist highlights open issues in the areas of agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA), services, rules, trade facilitation, trade and environment and TRIPS-related issues.

The informal Ministerial meeting is expected to be attended by more than twenty Ministers, as well as World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy, according to media reports.

Some WTO Members however appear to have given a lukewarm response to the Swiss proposal ahead of the Davos Ministerial meeting.

According to a news report in the Business Standard dated 28 January, which reported on a "green room" meeting at the WTO, several WTO Members including India, the US, China, South Africa and Brazil, were of the view that the Swiss proposal was "inappropriate" on account of the fact that Ministers could not be expected to be burdened with technical issues, and that the major stumbling block in the Doha Round was a lack of political will.

The Business Standard report cited Indian trade envoy Ujal Singh Bhatia as saying: "Ministers cannot be expected to delve into all the outstanding technical issues listed in the Swiss 'non-paper' during their individual three-minute interventions."

Speaking to journalists in Geneva on Wednesday, where he was attending a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Haiti, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said that there was need to have the Davos Ministerial meeting, as "if we don't do it, it will be a bad signal."

"So, I don't think we'll solve anything there but it's always an interesting place to debate," he said, adding that it is always useful to have discussions on trade.

The Brazilian Minister was of the view that it was possible to do a deal on Doha "if there is enough political courage."

The Swiss "non-paper", in the area of agriculture, points to the draft modalities text of 6 December 2008 as the basis of negotiation.

It cites the main open issues in agriculture as being cotton; the number and treatment of sensitive products; exemptions from capping for non-sensitive lines; tariff quota creation; tariff simplification; SSG (special safeguard); SSM (special safeguard mechanism); tropical products; and preference erosion.

It also said that the Chair of the agriculture negotiations should submit a fifth revision of the draft modalities text.

In NAMA, the Swiss point to the draft modalities text of 6 December 2008 as the basis of negotiation. The Swiss non-paper highlights the main open issues in NAMA as being country-specific flexibilities (South Africa, Argentina, Venezuela), sectorals and preference erosion. It also calls for the submission by the NAMA Chair of a fifth revision to the draft modalities text.

In services, under market access, the Swiss proposal points to the main open issue for Ministerial consideration as final revised offers. It says that there is need to decide at the stocktaking (scheduled end-March) on a date to submit final revised offers.

Under negotiations on domestic regulations (under services), the proposal says that vast divergences remain, in particular regarding the core obligations (licensing, qualification and standards) as well as on general provisions. It calls for the Chair to submit an annotated text.

Under negotiations on rules (in services), the proposal points to the main open issues being subsidies, emergency safeguard, and government procurement, saying that there is no text yet. It says that Members need to identify areas where results can be achieved.

In the area of rules, pertaining to the issue of anti-dumping, the Swiss proposal highlights a number of bracketed issues for consideration including zeroing, causation of injury, material retardation, product under consideration, anti-circumvention, public interest/lesser duty, and sunset reviews.

Issues without brackets, according to the Swiss non-paper, include threat of material injury, contents of request of initiation of an investigation, and identification of the domestic industry.

The proposal also identified issues for consideration that were not included in the draft text, including cost allocations, exchange rates, model matching, de minimis, negligible imports and standing.

As regards subsidies and countervailing measures (under rules), the Swiss non-paper points to several bracketed issues for consideration, including certain financing by loss-making institutions, export competitiveness, and export credits. Issues without brackets include subsidies conferred through the provision of goods or services at regulated prices. It also cites withdrawal of a subsidy as an issue that was not included in the draft text, for Ministerial consideration.

In respect of these issues (both anti-dumping and subsidies and countervailing measures), it calls on the Chair to submit a Rev. 2 Chair's text.

On fisheries subsidies (under rules), the main open issue cited by the non-paper for Ministerial consideration are all eight articles proposed in the new Annex VIII to the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM).

The non-paper says that the Chair should submit a revised draft Annex VIII to the ASCM.

The non-paper also calls for a substantial reduction in the number of square brackets in the trade facilitation text.

On TRIPS-related issues, the non-paper says that proponents (108 members) are seeking a Ministerial decision which would confirm negotiations for GI extension and TRIPS-CBD and fix the principal parameters (modalities) for the negotiations concerning all three TRIPS issues (GI register for wines and spirits, GI extension and TRIPS-CBD relationship).

It adds that Director-General Lamy's consultations on GI extension should continue, in parallel to the Special Session TRIPS work on the GI register. There is need to move from a mere question-answer format to working on the elements for a modalities decision. +