TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May11/12)
25 May 2011
Third World Network

NAMA Chair to consult on work plan for way forward
Published in SUNS #7152 dated 18 May 2011

 Geneva, 17 May (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products (NAMA) has informed delegations that he would begin consultations on a work plan for the future of the negotiations.

The announcement by the Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, came at an informal open-ended meeting of the negotiating group on 16 May.

According to trade officials, at the informal meeting, the Chair listened to reactions from members to his textual report on the state-of-play in the NAMA negotiations, which was first issued on 21 April.

Following this and his request to members for ideas on the next steps in the negotiations, trade officials said that the Chair informed delegations that he would begin consultations on a work plan for the future, given, in his view, that members don't want to throw in the towel after many years of negotiations; that members don't want to give up on the idea of the "Single Undertaking"; and that members agree not to proceed like they have proceeded until April of this year, but that they don't know how to proceed from now on.

According to trade officials, Ambassador Wasescha further said that given the lack of political guidance, he will wait until the next meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (scheduled for 31 May) to see what indications come from it, and then convene a NAMA meeting in early June to propose a way forward.

(At an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee on 29 April, Director-General Pascal Lamy, who reported that the Doha negotiations are once more on "the brink of failure", said that he intends to carry out a process of consultations with groups and individual members in various configurations, at various levels, including at Ministerial level at the upcoming APEC Trade Ministers' meeting on 18-21 May in Montana, the US, and the trade ministers' meeting on the margins of the OECD Ministerial in Paris on 26 May. He then proposed to report back to the TNC on 31 May. See SUNS #7140 dated 2 May 2011.)

Trade officials said that at the informal meeting on 16 May, both the European Union and Hong Kong-China made a strong call for continuing the work on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).

According to trade officials, Hong Kong-China referred to this as "the rule-making work of this negotiating group", while the EU referred to going "for a steeper climb" in this area.

Generally speaking, Switzerland said that members need a "political push" to advance the NAMA negotiations, while Japan called for a "serious discussion on sectors", said trade officials.

The US, trade officials added, voiced its outstanding concerns on NTBs, in particular on the proposed Horizontal Mechanism (for resolving NTB disputes). It said that there is a need to address "real world NTB issues".

As to the non-paper tabled recently by the EU outlining a "compromise" proposal on the NAMA sectoral negotiations, the EU told the meeting that it had discussed the non-paper with different members, said trade officials.

According to trade officials, the EU was of the view that its proposal was realistic, and that the gaps are bridgeable.

It also referred to its statement at the TNC meeting on 29 April (where it had outlined in broad terms its compromise scenario for the NAMA sectoral negotiations. See SUNS #7140 dated 2 May 2011 for details of the EU sectoral proposal.)

According to trade officials, the EU told the informal NAMA meeting that (during its discussions with different members) some members said that the proposal was a good idea, while others said that it was not.

Trade officials said that no other delegation commented on the EU's sectoral proposal at the informal meeting. +