TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov07/09)
2 November 2007
Below is a report of the NAMA meeting held on 22 October at the WTO.
It was published in the South North Development Monitor on 22 Oct. It is reproduced here with the permission of the SUNS. Any reproduction or re-circulation requires permission of SUNS (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Chair of the non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiations at the WTO, Ambassador Don Stephenson of Canada, on Monday announced his intention to issue his revised draft modalities text in mid-November.
The Chair made this announcement at an open-ended informal meeting of the NAMA Negotiating Group at which he reported to members on the different meetings that he has held in the last couple of weeks.
He also told the meeting that he had very little to go on with regards to input for his revised text, and warned that failure to conclude the modalities by year-end could spell failure for the Doha Round.
According to trade officials, Stephenson told members that he held many meetings in all sorts of configurations - small group, larger group and bilaterals (so-called "confessionals") - to gather data from members' positions for his revised modalities text that he intends to issue in mid-November.
Stephenson said that this date is as late as we can let it go, otherwise (this process) cannot be sustained next year.
He said that he feared that failure to conclude modalities by the end of the year would mean failure for the entire Doha Development Agenda.
The Chair added that the next few weeks would be the last opportunity for members to make contributions for him to revise his July text.
According to trade officials, the Chair said that he would continue to hold bilateral consultations since members were more forthcoming in this configuration than in the wider groups.
He added that he had very little to go on with respect to input for the revised text, and he noted that some members were not engaging enough. He did not know whether this was because they choose to wait to negotiate instead in the "green room" process or that they just don't want a conclusion to the Round.
Stephenson also said that leaving too many issues for the "green room" (when Ministers are taking political decisions) is no good. We've seen this movie before and we know how it ends, he said.
The Chair said that the question now is where to put the brackets in the new text.
His previous text was all in brackets, since nothing was agreed. Now, most of the brackets will go in the numbers since, according to Stephenson, most members find the proposed architecture of the modalities acceptable.
On the Non-Tariff Barrier (NTB) process, the Chair would continue consultations on when to decide on the particular NTBs for which there is no consensus.
When explaining all the issues discussed during the different meetings, it became obvious that developing countries are asking for more flexibilities on all fronts, according to Stephenson.
And on the formula (for tariff reduction), developing countries are asking for developed countries to accept a lower coefficient than the 8 or 9 proposed in his draft modalities text.
Stephenson said that Canada informed him at a meeting that it was ready to go down to a coefficient of 5.
He also mentioned that some developing countries said that they agreed that the brackets in paragraph 8 (flexibilities for developing countries that would allow them to exclude the more sensitive items of their tariff schedule from the application of the formula) be removed from his July text.
According to trade officials, only Bolivia and the United States took the floor at the informal meeting.
Bolivia explained why it did not join the proposal of its fellow Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) asking for further flexibilities.
According to trade officials, Bolivia said that according to its calculations, the proposal in the Chairman's text would mean for Bolivia a 55% cut to their bound rates, much bigger than for key developed members in percentage terms.
Even the new SVE proposal would mean cuts of 30% to its bound tariffs. According to trade officials, Bolivia said that this is politically unacceptable.
It added that the results of what after all is a development round would be very few or almost non-existent for the country. There would not be any support for development for the country.
The US said that it continues to work with other members on the sectoral component of the negotiations. It added that the work on this continues very positively.
According to trade officials, the Chair said that he would continue consultations with different members throughout the week on all issues.
[Meanwhile, according to a report in the "WTO Reporter" of 23 October, a draft proposal by India on the modality for formula and flexibilities in NAMA has been withdrawn. The report cited officials as saying that India had asked that the paper be withdrawn as a basis for discussions among its partners in the NAMA-11. The proposal had suggested a coefficient of 5 for developed countries and 28.5-30 for developing countries.]