TWN Info Service
on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb10/09)
their positions at services special session
Geneva, 10 Feb (Riaz
K. Tayob) -- A meeting of the Special Session of the Council for Trade
in Services of the World Trade Organization (WTO), where the Doha Round
services negotiations are taking place, saw Members merely reiterating
their previously-held positions. In addition, further consultations
are to be held on the Chair's report for the
The half-day meeting
on Tuesday was chaired by Ambassador Fernando de Mateo of
The meeting also considered the implementation of the modalities for the special treatment of Least Developed Countries in the negotiations on trade in services, the work of the subsidiary bodies (reports by Chairpersons) and review of the progress in the negotiations.
Speaking to SUNS after the meeting, several trade diplomats relayed their understanding of what transpired in the meeting.
One trade diplomat confirmed that another cluster of talks will be held in March along with other meetings.
Another trade diplomat said that the sequence of meetings will probably be a cluster of services negotiations in March, and a Council for Trade in Services Special Session (CTS-SS) to provide input into the Senior Officials' meeting, leading into the end March stocktaking exercise.
According to a trade diplomat, in the meeting on Tuesday, the developed countries largely applied pressure to secure their market access demands in services despite there being little progress on developing countries' needs in the agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiations.
In broad terms, the
demandeur developed countries (including
Of even more concern
is that some of the largest demandeur countries continue to drive down
the level of ambition in the Agriculture negotiations, whilst simultaneously
calling for increased ambition in services, added
"This does not
bode well for a successful conclusion of this Round," warned
The session also discussed reports from the subsidiary bodies of the Council for Trade in Services.
The session heard that the Working Party on Domestic Regulation (WPDR) was building on the 20 March 2009 text of the previous Chair. A trade diplomat said that there was some perceived progress in the talks. Proposals for amendments to the text include some new and previous proposals.
While it acknowledged that elements of the text can be improved upon, it stressed that to completely re-open this text to new proposals would be a waste of the years of painstaking work that went into developing this text and would constitute a serious setback for these negotiations.
With respect to the Working Party on GATS Rules (WPGR), a trade diplomat said that there was a feeling of new life and a new vibrancy in the discussions on subsidies.
However, views were still "polarised". Some Members were of the view that subsidies in services have no trade distortive effect, while others wanted a focus on the trade distortive effect of such subsidies.
Trade diplomats said that there have been no new real developments in talks on Government Procurement and on the Emergency Safeguard Measure (ESM). However, on the ESM, there was still not much enthusiasm, a trade diplomat said. The session heard that there were discussions and proposals on what may constitute a "domestic industry". However, he said, Members' positions "remained far apart".
A Draft Decision titled "Preferential and More Favourable Treatment to Services and Services Suppliers of Least-Developed Countries" (undated) was circulated at the meeting. Further discussions on this document are to take place, according to trade diplomats.
The draft decision is essentially a waiver from the most-favoured nation treatment clause (Article II. 1) of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to allow Members to provide preferential and more favourable treatment to services and services suppliers of LDCs.
There are some paragraphs that are as yet undecided and thus reflected in brackets.
There are two alternate operative paragraphs one (in brackets) regarding the formulation of the waiver.
According to a trade diplomat, the first alternative grants a more general waiver to LDCs in respect of Article II. 1. Some countries, he said, regarded this formulation as obscure.
(The first alternative paragraph one states that the obligations imposed under paragraph 1 of Article II of the GATS are hereby waived to the extent necessary to permit Members to provide preferential and more favourable treatment to services and services suppliers of least-developed countries without according the same treatment to like services and service suppliers of all other Members provided that any such treatment shall be granted immediately and unconditionally to like services and service suppliers of all least developed countries.)
The second alternate, which some developed countries preferred, states that notwithstanding Article II. 1, Members may provide preferential and more favourable treatment with respect to the application of measures described in Article XVI (market access).
Both alternates do state that such treatment shall be granted immediately and unconditionally to like services and service suppliers of all LDC Members.
Paragraph 5 states that this waiver shall terminate upon the expiration of a period of fifteen years from the date of its adoption. The fifteen year period is in brackets and hence undecided.
The waiver relies on the UN designation of LDCs (paragraph 6).
According to trade
diplomats, there will be further consultations by the Norwegian consultative
group on the process, as there were quite a number of questions on the
draft that had to be reviewed.
A trade diplomat told SUNS after the meeting that a problem was that the format, scope and structure of the Chair's report for the stocktaking exercise was not known. The Chair, De Mateo, was to undertake consultations with Members on his report.
According to a trade
diplomat, during the discussions,
Furthermore, the trade diplomat added that he had garnered from various discussions outside that WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy wanted the Chairs to produce texts that will be used as the basis for the stocktaking exercise. Lamy, he said, was understood to want "across the board texts" prepared by individual Chairs.
Meanwhile, at a separate meeting Tuesday morning of the Committee on Specific Commitments (CSC), Members received a proposal/communication from Japan regarding the "relationship between old and new commitments in the Doha Round negotiations" (a room document dated 3 February).
According to Japan, the paper has been prepared in order to identify elements to be discussed with regard to the relationship between old and new commitments in the Doha Round negotiations.
The document states
that it builds on the past discussions and tries to indicate a possible
way forward to find an appropriate solution to this important issue.
Trade diplomats said that
According to a trade diplomat attending the CSC session, little progress was made on the proposal. There was a common understanding that there should not be a "rollback" of commitments already made in the scheduling exercise during the scheduling of commitments in the current round.
The Japanese proposal sought a mechanism to address "rollbacks" and ensure "legal stability of the new schedules".
According to the trade
diplomat, in its intervention, the
Meanwhile, the Working
Party on Domestic Regulation (WPDR) continued its discussions on 2-3
February. In its Annotated Agenda, the WPDR has suggested an approach
for the contents of the Chair's report for the end-March
The WPDR, which falls under the Council for Trade in Services, is considering the March 2009 Chairperson's draft disciplines on Domestic Regulation (known as Peter's text) which is intended to replace certain current disciplines contained in GATS Article 6.
Members discussed the
preparation of the WPDR report by current Chair, Ms Misako Takahashi
According to trade diplomats that spoke to SUNS after the meeting, the Chair will conduct informal consultations with Members concerning the preparation of her report for the stocktaking exercise.
Regarding the preparation for the end-March stocktaking, the Annotated Agenda states that at last December's WPDR meeting, several proposals for a product were made, including for the Chair to prepare a revised text, a bracketed text reflecting textual proposals, an annotated text, or a state-of-play document.
In considering the various proposals, and after further conversations with various delegations, the Chair believed that these ideas can be integrated to some extent.
The Chair suggested, in the Annotated Agenda, to prepare a detailed annotation of the current text, taking into account all text proposals that have been made on the various paragraphs during consultations since June 2009.
The document would also contain a Chair's assessment of the state-of-play and, as appropriate, contain drafting suggestions or ideas for further work.
The WPDR meeting also discussed the Development Chapter (10) of the March 2009 Chairperson's draft disciplines on Domestic Regulation (known as Peter's text) and the meaning of "soft-law" language in the draft disciplines.
The meeting further
discussed the communication/proposal from
The new proposed language from the three Members now reads: "The purpose of these disciplines is to facilitate trade in services by ensuring that measures relating to licensing requirements and procedures, qualification requirements and procedures, and technical standards are based on objective and transparent criteria, such as competence and the ability to supply the services, and do not constitute unnecessary barriers to trade in services."
According to a trade diplomat, following some discussions on this, the Chair summarised that this is not a new issue and was first proposed in 2006. After a lot of debate, the Committee arrived at "disguised restrictions on trade", as this was more agreeable for countries.
The Chair said that three issues are not clear. First, there is no common understanding of the issue. Two, whether the necessity test as proposed should be part of the text. And three, if it is part of the text, then in which part: the operative or preamble. +