TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade (July10/11)
24 July 2010
Third World Network

NAMA Group takes up NTBs, meets again end September
Published in SUNS #6968 dated 19 July 2010

Geneva, 16 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- The Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products (NAMA) concluded a week of discussions Thursday, devoted to the issue of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).

At its last informal meeting before the annual summer break (from August to mid-September), the Group took up more than a dozen, new or revised proposals, said trade officials.

The next NAMA week is scheduled to be held on 27-30 September.

According to trade officials, the main product categories covered in the discussions included automotive products, chemical products, trade in electronics, labeling of textiles, clothing, footwear and travel goods, and trade in re-manufactured goods.

In a press briefing Thursday, the Chair of the NAMA Negotiating Group, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, summarized the four days of work on NTBs: "I would say as a Chairman, I am very satisfied, given the very active participation, of developed and developing countries alike." And "we start to see the emergence of some tracks which might lead us further," he added.

On the discussions on the horizontal mechanism (for resolving disputes concerning NTBs), the Chair said that a middle-ground proposal was presented to bridge the gaps, and this approach was positively welcomed.

A compromise solution in relation to the role of WTO Committees under the proposed horizontal mechanism was tabled by Colombia, Hong Kong-China, Singapore and Thailand.

The co-sponsors of the compromise proposal made some drafting suggestions to the portions of the text that pertain to the role of WTO Committees in document TN/MA/W/106/Rev. 1 (which sets out the proposed horizontal mechanism).

They note that this is an area where a compromise solution may be possible through ongoing negotiations in the Group. The co-sponsors believed that the drafting suggestions could be a constructive attempt to bridge the gap between the view that the proposed horizontal mechanism should entail an efficient process and that the role of the WTO Committees should be preserved.

To this end, the co-sponsors are suggesting that there can be a parallel process of invoking the proposed horizontal mechanism, while maintaining the role of the WTO Committees, through the provisions for simultaneous notification to the relevant Committee and opportunities for the relevant Committee to address the issues as appropriate by Members concerned.

On the trade in re-manufactured goods, the NAMA Chair said that there were two presentations, one by Switzerland, which allows for participants to differentiate between a re-used good, a re-cycled good, a re-furbished good and a re-manufactured good.

According to the Chair, the point of view from the developing countries in the discussion is how to ensure that the re-manufactured good is a like-product compared to a new product.

A second presentation was by the US, which pointed to a long list of companies around the world that are engaged in the business of re-manufactured goods.

According to the Chair, after having had a two-hour-long discussion on the definition of re-manufactured goods, the question now is how do Members go from there. The Chair's proposal was that the definition that was presently on the table is used as a hypothesis and checked with further facts, given the idea that the work programme should then define what a re-manufactured product is.

According to trade officials, the present definition of a re-manufactured good that is on the table is contained in negotiating text on liberalizing trade in re-manufactured goods tabled by Japan, Switzerland, and the United States.

According to their proposal (TN/MA/W/18/Add. 16/Rev. 4), re-manufactured good means a non-agricultural good: (1) that is entirely or partially comprised of parts that (i) have been obtained from the disassembly of used goods, and (ii) have been processed, cleaned, inspected, and tested to the extent necessary to ensure they have been restored to original working condition or better; and (2) for which the re-manufacturer has issued a warranty.

The three co-sponsors' proposal says that each Member should take steps to ensure that its trade regime evolves in a manner that enhances market access opportunities for re-manufactured goods, and that Members should review their non-tariff measures with a view to ensuring that they do not impose prohibitions or restrictions on the importation of re-manufactured goods that are proscribed by the Multilateral Agreements on Trade in Goods.

The proposal also calls for the setting up of a Working Group on Trade in Re-manufactured Goods under the auspices of the Council for Trade in Goods.

It also suggests a work programme for trade in re-manufactured goods whereby Members may raise and discuss specific trade concerns regarding prospective or current measures and ways in which Members could adjust their measures to reduce or eliminate barriers to trade in re-manufactured goods.

Members may organize workshops, which may include participants from private sector entities, non-governmental organizations, or international organizations, on pertinent issues, such as industry operations and practice, development aspects, relation to the environment, regulatory issues, and institutional issues.

The proposed Working Group on Trade in Re-manufactured Goods would carry out the work programme, according to the three co-sponsors.

According to the NAMA Chair, the discussion on the issue of trade in re-manufactured goods has not yet concluded, and will continue in order for Members to go through all the papers that are on the table.

Ambassador Wasescha said that there was also an active debate on the issue of standardization and standard-setting (in relation to the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement), and that there was a discussion on the level of ambition.

The Chair further said that there are three points of view to be considered: trade policy point of view which is oriented towards trade facilitation; the point of view of the regulators; and the point of view of the standard-setting bodies which are usually private and in competition with one another.

From the standard-setting bodies' perspective, there is a reluctance to make reference to specific standard-setting organizations because this would constitute a benchmark which national standard-setting bodies may not be in a position to meet, he added.

There is an important contribution made by India on the development dimension, said the Chair, adding what is the adequate way to come to a standardization situation where developing countries also have their say, and here there is a parallel between small- and medium-sized countries on one side and small- and medium-sized enterprises that face the same problem.

They don't have the means to send one of their specialists in the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) working group, as it is too costly. There is also a risk, from their perspective, that the standard is set by multinational companies, he said.

The room document tabled by India points to how international standard setting could be strengthened in the context of the NTB textual proposals under the NAMA negotiations. It stresses that while "international standards" find repeated mention in the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), it has not been specifically defined, thereby leaving the scope a bit open-ended.

It highlights some of the problems encountered especially by developing countries in standard setting, such as developing countries not having adequate human resources to participate in a plethora of standard setting bodies across the world under the ambit of the TBT Agreement; problem of financial constraints of Members to participate in these bodies; the non-inclusive participatory process in a large number of standard setting bodies; and the lack of coherence.

The Indian document also says that since the current round of WTO negotiations is premised on development, it is important that international standard setting must focus on products of export interest for developing countries.

This objective would be facilitated if there is a single relevant international standard setting body which could focus on setting standards on products of export interest for developing countries. The inclusive participation of developing countries in such bodies would enable this objective to be fulfilled.

India believed that it is important to designate specific bodies as the relevant international standard setting bodies for TBT-related measures.

The Chair also pointed to a discussion on the labeling of textiles, clothing, footwear and travel goods. During the discussion, Argentina and Brazil proposed the focus on textile and clothing, as they said that they do not have legislation on footwear and travel goods. +