TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec10/05)
11 December  2010
Third World Network

NAMA talks to intensify, revised texts envisaged by Easter
Published in SUNS #7050 dated 30 November 2010

Geneva, 29 Nov (Kanaga Raja) -- The negotiations on market access for non-agricultural products (NAMA) is set to intensify early in the new year, with the Chair of the negotiations saying that the goal now is to come up with revised NAMA texts by Easter.

This emerged during informal meetings of the WTO Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products late last week (on 24 and 26 November).

According to trade officials, the Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, told Members at an informal NAMA meeting on 24 November that as was agreed by WTO ambassadors getting their signal from the G20 leaders, the goal of the Group now is to come up with revised NAMA texts by Easter next year (in 2011, Easter Sunday falls on 24 April).

[According to media reports, at a meeting early last week, ambassadors from some twenty-three key developing and developed countries including the United States, the European Union, India, China and Brazil reportedly agreed to conclude a Doha deal by mid-2011. In this context, the ambassadors reportedly agreed to intensify the negotiations in January 2011, with the aim of coming up with revised draft modalities texts for agriculture and NAMA by Easter.

[The WTO ambassadors from some key 23 countries met following the G20 Summit on 11-12 November, where the G20 leaders stated their strong commitment to direct their negotiators "to engage in across-the-board negotiations to promptly bring the Doha Development Round to a successful, ambitious, comprehensive, and balanced conclusion consistent with the mandate of the Doha Development Round and built on the progress already achieved. The G20 leaders added: "We recognize that 2011 is a critical window of opportunity, albeit narrow, and that engagement among our representatives must intensify and expand. We now need to complete the end game..."

[An informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee is to be held on Tuesday, where the process for the intensification of the negotiations including the organization of the work for early next year is expected to be brought before the full membership.]

At the informal NAMA meeting on 24 November, the Chair stressed that reaching the goal of coming up with revised texts by Easter would depend on the delegations.

According to trade officials, the NAMA Chair cautioned that the intensification of the negotiations would mean more meetings, as well as the need to focus on the essentials.

The European Union welcomed the intensification of the work, as well as the work being undertaken in parallel between the negotiating groups and the WTO ambassadors.

According to trade officials, the US urged support for the sectoral proposal concerning chemicals. It circulated an informal paper highlighting the importance of chemical products in world trade.

The US further urged delegations to attend a brainstorming session on chemicals on 17 January 2010. It also told Members that together with other co-sponsors, it was pursuing work on proposals concerning textile labelling and re-manufactured goods.

Japan informed delegations that the APEC ministers' meeting in Yokohama (just after the G20 summit) supported the Doha Round, and that Ministers saw the year 2011 as a window of opportunity for concluding the negotiations.

Japan further said that it was continuing to discuss with other delegations its product-basket approach to the sectoral initiative. It also reported that Costa Rica has joined the co-sponsors of a proposal to enhance transparency in export licensing.

According to trade officials, New Zealand said that it was pursuing work on its sectoral proposal on fish. It pointed out that 80% of world fish production came from developing countries, and this should be considered in the draft modalities.

Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Kenya pointed to the challenges the Group faced regarding product standards. It proposed that the NAMA Group hear the experiences of African standard-setting bodies on this issue.

According to trade officials, Canada informed delegations that it had held useful meetings during the week on its industrial machinery proposal. It said that trade in this sector amounted to more than $1 trillion a year.

Lesotho, on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and El Salvador, on behalf of the Small, Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), reiterated the importance of the special and differential treatment provisions for developing countries.

According to trade officials, Saudi Arabia said that there is need for proponents to be clear on exactly what specific commitments they want for Members.

At the informal meeting of the NAMA Group on 26 November, the Chair stressed that there are only 68 working days left until Easter to solve almost all the questions that the Group had been unable to solve up to now. He envisaged the start of work on drafting revised texts.

On the issue of transparency provisions, the Chair noted the widespread support among delegations on this issue.

According to trade officials, he said that the Group will resume its work on 17 January 2011 with two days of intensive discussions on issues such as standards, conformity assessment, as well as issues related to chemicals, electronics and textiles.

The Chair said that he will conduct consultations on all the outstanding issues. He further said that the work of delegations would show how serious they are regarding the view of their leaders that the year 2011 should be the end-game of the negotiations.

According to trade officials, India said that it sees the results in non-tariff barriers (NTBs) as a key element of the NAMA package because such barriers could negate any advances in tariff reductions.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services on 25 November, several ambassadors, in reference to the G20 summit of
11-12 November, welcomed the political signals (on the Doha Round) that emerged from the G20 leaders.

The ambassadors emphasized the need to transform the political energy (arising from the G20 summit) into real substantive progress early next year.

According to Mr Hamid Mamdouh, Director of the WTO Trade in Services Division, several of them also emphasized the need to progress on all fronts - and not only those related to services.

He told a media briefing on 25 November that a lot of speakers mentioned the need for progress to happen in a balanced way. Some of them, in particular the developing countries, said that the balance has to be within services and across the Doha Development Agenda.

According to the senior WTO official, everyone pointed to the need for more active engagement in the services negotiations as of January 2011. They also emphasized that what is needed is substantive engagement.

Delegations also mentioned the need for a time-line to measure progress in the services negotiations. Several delegations pointed to the need to see marked progress by spring next year, both on the market access side as well as on the textural side, particularly on domestic regulation and on a waiver for the LDCs.

The point was also made at the meeting that what was currently on the table on services is not satisfactory. What is on the table now is fairly outdated, Mamdouh said, and what "we should be looking at in the services negotiations is what could be reasonably achieved."

Meanwhile, on the agriculture negotiations, the Chair of the Special Session of the Agriculture Committee, Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand, has informed negotiators that the next informal meeting of the full membership will be held on 6 December. Another meeting of the full membership is expected to be held later in the week.

According to trade officials, Ambassador Walker said that he will report on the consultations that he has been holding since the last series of meetings in September-October. These consultations are to continue during the week of 6 December. +