TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar11/10)
17 March 2011
Third World Network

Agriculture, NAMA groups hold another round of talks
Published in SUNS #7106 dated 11 March 2011

Geneva, 10 Mar (Kanaga Raja) -- Both the agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiating groups at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are holding another round of negotiations, with the deadline of producing revised draft texts in both these areas by late April fast approaching.

An informal open-ended meeting of the Special Session of the Agriculture Committee took place on 9 March, at the start of some ten days of consultations, said trade officials.

According to trade officials, at this informal meeting, Norway and India reported to the membership on the separate consultations that they have been holding on value-of-production data for calculating domestic support commitments (undertaken by Norway); and on clarifying a number of issues in the current draft modalities text, which India (holding these consultations) said is a technical and neutral exercise, and not a negotiation.

Argentina and Brazil, said trade officials, reiterated their call for work on data used to convert specific rates (tariffs that are not expressed as percentages of the value, that is, not ad valorem), into their ad valorem equivalents (AVEs).

Argentina voiced the view that priority should be given to data that has to be annexed to the text on modalities.

The Chair, Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand, enquired as to when the smaller group consultations on clarifying the present draft modalities text would be able to produce "output" for the full membership, as well as for his revision of the draft text, trade officials added.

According to trade officials, India informed that further meetings have been planned and when the discussion has developed enough, it will be brought to the full membership.

Trade officials said that Brazil shared the concerns expressed by the Chair, considering the present deadlines (of producing a revised draft text by 21 April).

The Chair also informed the Members that he will be conducting consultations, including a "Room E" meeting of some 38 delegations, before another open-ended meeting of the full membership takes place on 18 March.

Meanwhile, the Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-agricultural Products (NAMA) is holding another "NAMA week" from 14-17 March.

According to trade officials, the NAMA Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, is convening a series of meetings, with a plenary session on 14 March afternoon kicking off the week of negotiations.

Trade officials said that this will be followed by small-group meetings to discuss the issue of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).

A plenary session open to all Members on 17 March afternoon will close the week of negotiations.

According to trade officials, the first agenda item that has been proposed for the opening plenary meeting on 14 March is on Members reporting any new developments or activities undertaken by them since the last NAMA week (in February, see SUNS #7088 dated 15 February 2011), followed by the consideration of any new documents.

In this context, trade officials said that since the last NAMA week in February, two documents have been circulated: document TN/MA/W/74/Rev. 1 submitted by Zambia on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) on "Least-Developed Countries' Proposal on Rules of Origin"; and a "JOB" document submitted by Korea on "A compromise solution in relation to the International Standards and Conformity Assessment Procedures under the NTB Negotiation on Electronics".

According to trade officials, an open-ended session on 17 March that closes the week of negotiations is expected to hear reports on the work done during the week; discuss a working document on the Horizontal Mechanism for resolving NTB disputes; discuss International Standards; and introduce any working document that emerges from the small-group meetings during the week.

The week will also see the co-sponsors of the various sectoral initiatives (some 14 sectors in all have been proposed, highlighted in Annex 7 of the 2008 draft NAMA text) holding an information session on the morning of 15 March.

According to trade officials, the format for this meeting, which is open to all Members, will be a 10-minute presentation on each sectoral initiative, followed by a Q&A (question and answer) session after each presentation. +