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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec14/05)
23 December 2014
Third World Network
 

Rules and NAMA Groups, TRIPS Council hold meetings
Published in SUNS #7940 dated 18 December 2014
 
Geneva, 17 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- The various negotiating bodies on the WTO Doha Round have begun to hold meetings following the adoption of the three General Council decisions on 27 November on trade facilitation, on public stockholding for food security purposes and on the post-Bali work.
 
Over the past few days, the Negotiating Group on Rules (on 16 December), the Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products (NAMA, on 15 December) and the Special Session of the TRIPS Council (on 12 December) have held meetings at which Members have been offering a range of views on their priorities for the post-Bali work.
 
The General Council decision of 27 November on the post-Bali work has set a deadline of July 2015 for agreeing on the work programme that was mandated in the 2013 Bali Declaration.
 
NEGOTIATING GROUP ON RULES
 
An informal meeting of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules on 16 December heard a number of Members calling for the issues of anti-dumping and fisheries subsidies to be included in the post-Bali work programme for concluding the Doha Round.
 
At the meeting, several other Members including the African Group said that clarity is needed on the issue of agriculture and the other core subjects in the Doha negotiations before detailed work in the Rules Group could begin.
 
According to trade officials, at the start of the informal meeting on Tuesday, the Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, said that with the recent General Council decision that broke the Bali impasse, the negotiating bodies have been asked to meet on developing the post-Bali work programme.
 
In this context, the Chair posed the following question to the Members: "When do we begin working on substance, and what should this substance be?"
 
This elicited a range of views from the Members in the Rules Group meeting.
 
According to trade officials, New Zealand, speaking on behalf of the ‘Friends of Fish' group, said that disciplines on fisheries subsidies should be central to the work of the Group.
 
(The Friends of Fish group includes Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines and the United States.)
 
New Zealand cited a recent report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that found that fish stocks continue to deteriorate in part due to fisheries subsidies that encourage overfishing and overcapacity.
 
It said that "the time to act is now".
 
According to trade officials, Iceland, Colombia, Argentina, the Philippines and Australia voiced support for New Zealand's statement.
 
Dominica, speaking on behalf of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries and the Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), voiced support for including fisheries subsidies in the work programme, with sufficient special and differential treatment being provided for small-scale fishing.
 
According to trade officials, Japan, on behalf of the ‘Friends of Anti-Dumping Negotiations (FANs)', said that the anti-dumping negotiations should be part of the post-Bali work programme.
 
(The Friends of Anti-Dumping Negotiations include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong-China, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Turkey.)
 
At the Rules Group meeting, Japan proposed the following: (1) that the WTO Secretariat organize a workshop on stocktaking of the anti-dumping negotiations; and (2) that the Group re-start discussions on the non-controversial un-bracketed parts of the Chair's text.
 
Korea, Chinese Taipei, Norway, Colombia, Hong Kong-China, Switzerland, Singapore, Turkey, Thailand and Uruguay expressed support for Japan's statement.
 
According to trade officials, Brazil, India and Australia said that without clarity in agriculture and the other core issues, they would find it difficult to envisage starting work in the Rules area.
 
Ghana, on behalf of the African Group, said that clarity in the core subjects of agriculture, industrial goods and services is needed before detailed work in rules could begin.
 
It cautioned Members on "cherry-picking" issues from the Rules mandate.
 
On fisheries subsidies, the African Group said that small-scale and artisanal fishing contribute to food security in developing countries.
 
According to trade officials, the European Union said that technical work in the Group could resume in the near future.
 
It called for further work on the transparency mechanism for regional trade agreements (RTAs).
 
On fisheries subsidies, the EU noted that a number of Members believe that the Group should not enter into discussions of this subject prematurely.
 
According to trade officials, China said that it supports strengthening disciplines and avoiding abuse in the use of anti-dumping measures.
 
It said that the Group could start discussions on the less controversial anti-dumping issues such as transparency, due process, expiry review and new shippers review.
 
It said that it is open minded regarding fisheries subsidies but stressed the need for taking into account the development dimension.
 
The US was of the view that Members should focus first on the core issues of agriculture, industrial goods and services.
 
With respect to anti-dumping, the US said that continuing the current discussions in the Technical Group is the best approach.
 
It also strongly supported the Friends of Fish position.
 
On regional trade agreements, the US said that there is nothing more to add, as the Group has fulfilled its mandate.
 
According to trade officials, in his concluding remarks, the Chair of the Rules Group said that many delegations have supported conducting a stocktaking of the negotiations, not only on anti-dumping but also on the other Rules issues.
 
However, a number of delegations are not convinced that this stocktaking is appropriate at this time, he added.
 
Ambassador McCook said that he will conduct consultations on this issue.
 
As to the views of a number of delegations that work in the Group could only begin once there is clarity on the core issues, the Chair said that he would like to know whether this is a flexible or an absolute position.
 
According to trade officials, the Chair also asked what indicators from the core issues would be necessary to start work in the Rules Group.
 
In this context, he noted that some delegations have proposed adding fisheries subsidies to the work programme, while some have suggested the issue of anti-dumping, with the initial focus on the easier aspects like the un-bracketed texts.
 
The Chair said that many delegations have emphasised the importance of the development dimension, including special and differential treatment for developing countries.
 
Ambassador McCook informed the delegations that he would convene the next meeting of the Rules Group in late January or early February.
 
He said that he sees an opportunity for work in the Group, but that this is in the hands of the Members.
 
NEGOTIATING GROUP ON MARKET ACCESS (NAMA)
 
The Negotiating Group on Market Access (NAMA) held its first informal meeting on 15 December following the adoption of the three General Council Decisions on 27 November.
 
According to trade officials, many developing countries including the African Group, the Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), stressed the importance of the development dimension in the NAMA negotiations, including on elements such as non-reciprocity and special and differential treatment (S&D).
 
A number of them also expressed support for using the Rev. 3 draft NAMA modalities text of December 2008 as the basis for the negotiations, in part because it contains these development provisions.
 
China also supported using the Rev. 3 text as the basis for the negotiations.
 
According to trade officials, a number of developing countries including South Africa, Venezuela and Mexico also voiced objection to the use of the Swiss formula in cutting tariffs - as is contained in the Rev. 3 text - because it did not provide sufficient flexibilities for developing countries.
 
The European Union, Switzerland, Mexico, Uganda (on behalf of LDCs) and Cameroon supported the inclusion of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in the NAMA negotiations.
 
Uganda said that for the LDCs, the main NAMA issue is not tariffs in the traditional sense, but NTBs such as rules of origin.
 
According to trade officials, many delegations including Ecuador, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, Canada and Russia stressed the importance of the agriculture negotiations, saying that progress in NAMA should be in parallel with that of agriculture.
 
Trade officials said that the US reiterated its opposition to using the Rev. 3 text as the basis for the negotiations.
 
The US also said that it could not see a way forward on NTBs.
 
Noting Director-General Roberto Azevedo's recommendation for more involvement of officials from capitals, the US said that negotiating sessions on agriculture and NAMA should be scheduled in the same week.
 
According to trade officials, the Chair of the NAMA Group, Ambassador Remigi Winzap of Switzerland, said that it had been a useful first discussion.
 
With regards to the Rev. 3 text, the Chair said that delegations must see what they want to get out of it, because as it stands, the Rev. 3 text is not a recipe for success.
 
Ambassador Winzap said that aside from thinking about what they need, delegations should also think about what would be acceptable to other delegations.
 
The important thing, he said, is to get results. Thus, delegations must be as flexible as possible, he added.
 
According to trade officials, the Chair invited delegations to consult with him individually in the days ahead on the NAMA issues.
 
TRIPS COUNCIL IN SPECIAL SESSION
 
Meanwhile, the TRIPS Council in Special Session, where the negotiations on a multilateral register of geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits are taking place, met late last week.
 
According to trade officials, the Chair of the Special Session, Ambassador Dacio Castillo of Honduras, told Members at the 12 December meeting that "1 July 2015 is only 200 days away - we will have to think concretely about how to structure our work next year and how to get back to the substance of our mandate."
 
(The negotiations on the GI register have been inactive since early 2011 and only two meetings have been held since then, one in March 2012 and the other in April 2014.)
 
At the meeting of the Special Session last week, the Chair proposed starting with an informal information meeting, instead of a negotiating session, in February 2015.
 
This would include a summary of what had taken place in the negotiations up to 2011, as a reminder to Members on where the negotiations have reached.
 
According to trade officials, delegations did not offer any new ideas and said that the negotiations should not return to the substance until a clearer picture emerges in the negotiations on agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and services. +

 


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