TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb11/04)
10 February 2011
Third World Network

A slew of WTO meetings on the cards next week
Published in SUNS #7082 dated 7 February 2011

Geneva, 4 Feb (Kanaga Raja) -- In the ongoing march towards producing draft texts by late April, several negotiating groups including on TRIPS, agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) will be holding negotiating sessions next week at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Special Session of the TRIPS Council, which is conducting negotiations on a multilateral register for Geographical Indications (GIs) for wines and spirits, will be holding an informal meeting of the full membership on 11 February.

During the week (7-11 February), the Chair of the Special Session, Ambassador Darlington Mwape of Zambia, will also continue working with representatives of the three groups that have tabled proposals in the negotiations -- the sponsors of TN/C/W/52, the "joint proposal" group (TN/IP/W/10/Rev.2), and Hong Kong-China (TN/IP/W/8).

The work is on the six possible elements for developing a single draft text on setting up the register.

The draft text, which is being assembled piece-by-piece, follows a six-point sequence, namely, notification, registration, legal effects/consequences of registration, fees and costs, special treatment for developing countries, and participation.

So far, the draft text has two sections, i.e. notification and registration of GIs. (See SUNS #7067 dated 17 January 2011 and SUNS #7078 dated 1 February 2011).

It is not yet clear if the Chair next week will be taking up the third element of the six-point sequence - legal effects/consequences of registration - and/or go back to the existing text and remove bracketed text in parts of the current two elements.

The Chair is expected to report on the outcome of his work during the week at the open-ended meeting on 11 February.

Meanwhile, the Chair of the agriculture negotiations, Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand, has informed negotiators of his plans for the period of 7-17 February.

An informal meeting of the full membership will take place on 7 February, to be followed by "a period of intense work" finishing with another informal meeting of the full membership on 17 February.

According to trade officials, the Chair said that he will also hold a series of informal consultations during the period.

The last agriculture week took place on 17-21 January. Two informal meetings of the full membership were held on 17 and 21 January.

At the open-ended informal meeting on 21 January, Ambassador Walker reported on consultations that he held with 38 delegations in the WTO's Room E on 20 January afternoon.

According to trade officials, the Chair said that delegations indicated that they had returned from the Christmas and New Year break, having done their homework and prepared to engage constructively.

He said that he was encouraged to hear that delegations had organized some meetings on technical questions and outstanding issues in the modalities. The Chair added that he was also encouraging them to continue "at a pace".

Earlier, on 17 January, trade officials said that Canada presented a proposed approach for creating templates on overall Blue Box domestic support. This would produce different forms for Members to write out their commitments, depending on whether they are heavy users of the Blue Box, net food-importing developing countries, other developing countries, recent new Members, or developed in general.

Brazil said that the G20 was examining "overall trade-distorting domestic support" (Amber Box + de minimis + Blue Box) in order to clarify the provisions in the draft modalities text of 2008 and would discuss this with some other Members.

According to trade officials, India said that it was working with Argentina and China on the list of issues that the three countries have circulated as issues in the 2008 draft text that need clarifying. The three countries would also consult with some other Members, said India.

The latest round of NAMA negotiations is also to take place next week, with an open-ended informal meeting on 7 February kicking off the week of talks. This will be followed by a small-group meeting on the same day.

According to trade officials, a "Room D" meeting (of around 55 delegations) in the morning of 8 February will go through tariff issues in the draft NAMA text title-by-title, including the issue of sectors (the elimination or almost total elimination of tariffs in 14 sectors, a list of these sectors being outlined in Annex 7 of the draft text).

Trade officials indicated that for the first time in two years, the issues of tariff reduction formulas and coefficients are expected to be taken up.

In the afternoon of the same day, the issue of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) will again be discussed, in particular, textile labelling and re-manufactured goods (textual proposals on NTBs are in Annex 5 of the draft modalities text).

On 9 February morning, trade officials said that there will be small-group meetings ("Friends of the chair", of around 12 delegations) to discuss the Horizontal Mechanism for resolving disputes involving NTBs, while in the afternoon, the issue of re-manufactured goods will be discussed.

10 February will be set aside for Members to engage in bilateral and plurilateral discussions among themselves.

Trade officials said that on 11 February, there will be a small-group meeting in the morning, and a closing open-ended informal meeting in the afternoon in order to provide information to the whole membership, as well as to hear Member's comments.

Meanwhile, the Negotiating Group on Rules held an informal meeting on subsidies and countervailing measures on 2 February.

The Chair, Ambassador Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago, reported that the following subjects on subsidies and countervailing measures were taken up during his plurilateral consultations held this week:

--  On "regulated pricing" (Article 14.1d), a revised version of a 2008 paper was presented by the US. The EU further elaborated on its 2006 paper on discriminatory price with respect to energy inputs for export, such as in the manufacture of fertilizer.

--  India and China presented their respective proposals (TN/RL/GEN/164 and TN/RL/GEN/169) on possible guidelines on the use of "facts available" in  countervailing duty investigations, using as a pattern the Anti-Dumping Agreement provisions.

-- Two proposals from India on a benchmark for export finance in developing countries for countervailing duty investigations, and a verification system of duty rebate schemes and definition of inputs consumed (TN/RL/GEN/166 and TN/RL/GEN/153).

-- Two proposals by Brazil on export credits. According to trade officials, Brazil had expressed concern about an OECD arrangement on export credits, to which many WTO members are not party to.

In concluding, the Chair said that his plurilateral consultations had covered considerable ground. He had been particularly encouraged by the apparent convergence among delegations on the issue of "facts available".

According to trade officials, the Chair said that on other issues, there was a constructive tone to the discussions, which was a positive sign.

He reiterated that he would be appointing more "Friends of the Chair", and establish contact groups to deal with particular issues. He also told delegates that he would be reactivating the Technical Group on Anti-dumping.

The Chair further said that the next meeting on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies will be held in the week of 21 February.

He cautioned delegations to be prepared for a gruelling schedule of meetings. +