TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb12/05)
18 February 2012
Third World Network

WTO NAMA Group holds first meeting since MC8
Published in SUNS #7295 dated 26 January 2012

Geneva, 25 Jan (Kanaga Raja) - The Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-agricultural Products (NAMA) on 24 January held its first meeting of the year, just more than one month following the conclusion of the eighth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC8).

According to trade officials, the informal open-ended consultation was held as the NAMA Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, wanted to hear the opinions, ideas and suggestions of members on how to move forward with the NAMA negotiations, taking into account the conclusions of MC8 at which ministers had said that they remained committed to a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA).

The Chair also recalled the views of ministers that different negotiating approaches should be explored, trade officials added.

Trade officials said that after listening to several interventions, the Chair informed members that he would proceed in three phases: (1) He would start consultations in different formats on all areas of the NAMA negotiations; (2) After this, he would switch to "a debate" at which he would present different options to members; and (3) The Group would start negotiations on these options.

According to trade officials, in their interventions, several members referred to the need to discuss not only Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), as has taken place in the last few years of the negotiations, but also the tariff component of the mandate.

Trade officials said that the countries that voiced this view included the United States, Australia, Korea, New Zealand, Canada and Japan.

The US said that NTBs are only a "modest" part of the NAMA negotiations.

On the other hand, other members voiced the need to achieve a balance in the NAMA negotiations, as well as in the overall negotiations.

Trade officials said that Cuba, Ecuador and Argentina were insistent on this view.

Pakistan voiced regret that there had not been any new ideas expressed at the meeting.

According to trade officials, Ambassador Wasescha said that he had detected general readiness to do something to advance the negotiations but there was no consensus on what to do, when and how.

The Chair proposed that members finish what can be finished, and shelve it until there is clarity on how to deal with the rest of the issues.

According to trade officials, the Chair said that he would convene another meeting within a month.