Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr12/02)
2 April March 2012
Third World Network
Wide divergences surface in NAMA talks on tariffs
Published in SUNS #7332 dated 19 March 2012
Geneva, 16 Mar (Kanaga Raja) -- A discussion in the WTO Negotiating
Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products (NAMA) on the tariff
component of the negotiations saw wide divergences among the membership
on how to proceed.
At an informal meeting of the Group on 14 March, trade officials said
that the first discussion on tariffs in almost four years proved inconclusive,
with the Chair, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland, proposing
some new ideas.
The tariff component of the NAMA negotiations encompasses the formula
for tariff reduction, with different coefficients for developed and
developing countries, as well as the flexibilities for developing countries
in the application of the tariff reduction formula.
According to trade officials, many developing countries stressed the
need to respect Special and Differential Treatment (S&D), the balance
with the agriculture negotiations and the principle of "less than
full reciprocity" in tariff reduction commitments with respect
to the commitments of developed countries.
Trade officials said that Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela and others insisted
on balance as being essential, while Australia and Canada spoke of the
need for a good market access outcome.
Several developing countries also voiced the view that any new idea
such as Initial Negotiating Rights -- Article XXVIII of the GATT, or
the "Request and Offer modality", is worth discussing.
But most seemed to prefer the December 2008 draft modalities, the base
of the current Chair's text, saying that these modalities were the result
of difficult negotiations, trade officials added.
The US expressed regret that there was no robust discussion on the tariff
element of the NAMA negotiations, something that it said it had hoped
But the US said it was ready to discuss some Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs)
such as in textile labelling and re-manufacturing provided the discussion
does not move the file backwards.
According to trade officials, the European Union said that it is open
to a discussion on all issues, including some that other delegations
were insisting on dropping, such as the NTB-related Horizontal Mechanism
and export restrictions.
The Chair concluded that there were a lot of ideas that deserved further
reflection, and that he would continue consultations with different
small groups of members on how to design a way to move forward the discussion
on NTBs and tariffs, taking into account the wishes of ministers expressed
at the eighth WTO Ministerial Conference last December.
Meanwhile, earlier in the week, trade officials said that the negotiating
group held a half hour "non-discussion" on NTBs grouped under
the so-called "Wagon II" (See Annex D of document TN/MA/W/103/Rev.
Wagon II issues include export licensing, export taxes, unilateral trade
measures, fireworks, lighters, and forestry products (this last issue
was withdrawn at the request of its main proponent, New Zealand).
At an informal meeting on 12 March that focused on NTBs, trade officials
said that Cuba, supported by Ecuador, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Argentina,
Nicaragua and Brazil, said that it wanted a deep debate on the unilateral
trade measures imposed against the country (the US embargo against Cuba),
which it said were "inconsistent and incompatible" with WTO
According to trade officials, the US said that it did not support a
discussion of this NTB, reiterating its long-standing claim that it
would never gain consensus.
According to trade officials, Cuba responded by blaming the "hypocrisy"
of certain countries that claim to be committed to progress in the negotiation
but in fact are torpedoing any progress.
The European Union, China and Switzerland said that they wanted to focus
on NTBs in "Wagon I" (which was discussed at an earlier meeting
of the group on 8 March. See SUNS #7327 dated 12 March 2012).
The EU said it did not want to activate work on Wagon II, while Switzerland
was of the view that the time was not ripe for a discussion on this
According to trade officials, Japan said that its own proposal for disciplines
on export licensing was getting more co-sponsors.
Noting the divergence of opinions and positions, the Chair reserved
his concluding remarks for after the discussion on tariffs on 14 March,
and adjourned the meeting. +
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