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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar15/02)
12 March 2015
Third World Network

 
No common ground on NAMA, says Chair
Published in SUNS #7974 dated 4 March 2015
 
Geneva, 3 Mar (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products (NAMA), at an informal meeting on Monday, urged members to come up with new ideas and proposals in order to find a common ground, which does not exist at the moment.
 
According to trade officials, the NAMA Chair, Ambassador Remigi Winzap of Switzerland, had convened the meeting following several consultations that he had held on the elaboration of the post-Bali work programme (which also includes the NAMA issues).
 
The Chair gave the floor to members to voice their views, following which he concluded that "what's today on the table, as it stands, cannot fly".
 
Ambassador Winzap said that he had heard some new ideas but there were no concrete proposals.
 
The Chair encouraged the members to come with new ideas and to make proposals, either individually or in groups, in order to find a common ground.
 
According to trade officials, Argentina proposed that the negotiations be conducted on a "request and offer" approach, encompassing the three main areas of agriculture, NAMA and services.
 
This approach would involve no quantitative goals, no reduction formulae, no flexibilities and no requirement to engage.
 
It will be implemented in a bilateral or plurilateral format and be demand-driven, with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) only participating if they are willing to.
 
Argentina said that it will present its proposal in the next few days.
 
According to trade officials, Argentina said that it is ready to hear members' reactions on how issues such as the principle of Less Than Full Reciprocity (LTFR) in tariff reduction commitments, Special and Differential treatment (S&D) and preference erosion can be dealt with in the new proposal.
 
While a number of countries welcomed new ideas and initiatives, some voiced doubts about Argentina's proposal.
 
According to trade officials, the EU said that the request-and-offer proposal has value but it "might not bring us closer to the result we expect", while Canada expressed some concerns.
 
Australia said that it does not think that it would be enough to achieve the desired result, while Brazil also expressed some doubts.
 
The US said that it was looking forward to seeing the proposal, while India said that it would assess it.
 
According to trade officials, other members including Thailand, Switzerland and Mexico said that the "request and offer" approach could be a good complement to the formula on cutting tariffs.
 
South Africa, Paraguay and Venezuela supported the proposal, trade officials added.
 
According to trade officials, many developing countries considered the Rev. 3 draft NAMA modalities text to be a good basis for the negotiations, in particular due to the need to retain the flexibilities for developing countries that are contained in the text.
 
On the other hand, the European Union, Canada, the US and, to a lesser extent, Korea did not consider the Rev. 3 text to be a good basis to move forward.
 
According to trade officials, some members including Brazil, South Africa, Bolivia, Thailand and India reiterated that the level of ambition in agriculture would set the level of ambition in NAMA.
 
According to trade officials, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Cuba and India stressed on the principle of Less Than Full Reciprocity (LTFR).
 
Brazil said that the principle of LTFR is non-negotiable, while India said that any reduction of tariffs should be based on the bound rates.
 
According to trade officials, Kenya, on behalf of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries (ACP), said that full account should be taken of the needs of developing countries. The negotiations on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) is critical for the Group, it added.
 
Chinese Taipei said that the special situation of the Recently Acceded Members (RAMs) should be fully taken into account.
 
According to trade officials, China said that the development component of the round should be paramount and that the flexibilities in the Rev. 3 text should be preserved.
 
The Swiss formula for tariff reduction, as contained in the Rev. 3 text, was favoured by some members including China, but rejected by others including South Africa.
 
The NAMA Chair said that "most Members are in general showing a certain openness to envisage alternative approaches to the Swiss formula".
 
On NTBs, many members consider them to be very important in the NAMA negotiations but said that the focus should now be on the contributions of the "formula applying Members".
 
The Chair said that he did not hear anything new in the discussion. He further said that the negotiations on NTBs without tariff negotiations are not possible.
 
The Chair further concluded that NAMA cannot be seen in isolation since it is interdependent with all the other issues.
 
According to trade officials, Ambassador Winzap said that the NAMA landing zones will be at a lower level than was envisaged in the Rev. 3 text.
 
He said that the Rev. 3 text is not obsolete but there are difficulties for some members. The Negotiating Group also had to address the question of the Swiss formula, which creates problems for some members, he added.
 
The Chair said that the only possible result in this negotiation is one that gets everybody on board.
 
According to trade officials, he encouraged members to bring forward new proposals to try to find a common ground. +

 


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