TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (June 07/07)
15 June 2007
A series of meetings on NAMA took place in the week beginning on 4 June.
Below is a report of the 4 June meeting.
NAMA week begins with discussion on several outstanding issues
Goh Chien Yen (TWN)
Chair of the World Trade Organisation's negotiating group on non-agricultural
market access (NAMA), Ambassador Don Stephenson of
A week-long series of meetings which started on Monday (4 June) is intended to throw more light on how several outstanding aspects of the negotiations could be captured in the draft modalities.
At the first meeting, held on Monday, and open to all members, the Chair urged members to help him "close gaps and build bridges" between their divergent positions.
told members that he will begin drafting the text after this week, although
he is less sure when it would be released. He had not decided whether
to issue the paper before or after the G4 ministers' meeting on 19-21
June. The G4 members are
The Chair also informed members that once the text is out, he intends to meet with Members in open-ended sessions to listen to their views and decide whether and when to issue a revised text on the basis of the comments of Members.
The Chair has grouped the various NAMA issues into ten topics for discussions: (i) elements pertaining to the formula; (ii) treatment of paragraph 6 countries; (iii) small, vulnerable economics (SVEs); (iv) recently acceded members (RAMs); (v) least developed countries (LDCs); (vi) sectorals and non-tariff barriers (NTBs); (vii) preference erosion; (viii) environmental goods; (ix) the issues of supplementary modalities, elimination of low tariffs and appropriate studies and capacity building; and (x) tariff reduction formula.
Members rapidly went through the first nine topics on the first day of the meeting, leaving the most contentious issue of tariff reduction formula to be dealt with on Friday.
However, it is doubtful whether the meetings will produce concrete results during the week. There is still the view that the NAMA negotiations are awaiting the outcome elsewhere, especially in the agriculture talks.
According to a trade diplomat, "Delegates didn't feel like repeating their positions as they have already done so in the small group consultations. They are also waiting for the G4 outcomes and movements in the agriculture negotiations. Members are not prepared to engage and signify change in their positions on the various NAMA issues at this stage."
In addition to the wide divides on the tariff reduction formula, the positions of members (especially between the developed and developing countries) remain polarized on many aspects.
instance, there are divergent positions on the extent to which unbound
tariff lines are to be marked up. Many developing countries such as
members such as the
The developing country members have repeatedly pointed out that applying a minimal percentage point mark up to already low applied rates has the effect of punishing members for their unilateral liberalization efforts.
Tariff lines which are currently unbound in the WTO would first have to be marked up to a base level, and then the tariff reduction formula is used to apply cuts to them, and they are then bound at the new levels.
the treatment of developing countries falling under paragraph 6 (of
the NAMA framework of July 2004), developed country members such as
According to paragraph 6, countries that have less than 35% of their industrial tariffs bound are to substantially increase their level of binding in this round of negotiations. It is understood that these countries are to bind their tariff lines at a national average rate of 28.5%.
incidence of tariff binding is the main issue here.
developed countries such as
The Chair pointed out that binding has to be considered an important contribution to the Round because certainty for exporters is a very good thing.
On the issue of non-agriculture "environmental goods", a heated argument ensued during the Monday open ended session between the developed and developing country members.
Developing countries generally were of the opinion that it was premature at this stage to discuss modalities on these goods when there has been no agreement on what these goods are in the special session of the committee on trade and environment. The special session of the committee is responsible for identifying environmental goods.
In contrast, developed members wanted a discussion already in NAMA about the modalities for these products. The EU and US said that this was important and an outcome was necessary.
On the preference erosion issue, the Chair said that "Aid for Trade" (trade-related development assistance) must play a central role in addressing the central problems behind preference erosion, according to trade officials.
Some countries, such as Kenya, Bangladesh and Mauritius did not agree, saying that trade solutions were required to deal with the problem of preference erosion such as longer implementation period for products receiving preferences and simplified rules of origin.
some other developing countries such as
On the issue of small, vulnerable economies (SVEs), it is generally accepted that developing country members with less than 0.1% of world trade in industrial products would be considered as SVEs. This group of countries has proposed that they be exempted from the tariff reduction formula and that they would instead use an alternative approach in making tariff commitments in this round.
At the meeting, the Chair pointed out that the SVEs and members have so far avoided using numbers in their proposal for an alternative approach. However, numbers will ultimately decide the acceptability of the proposed approach.
the issue of how to treat recently acceded members (RAMs),
There will be more open-ended NAMA meetings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week. +