TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb08/17)

25 February 2008

WTO Members reiterate call for Rules Chair to revise his text

Published in SUNS #6417 Tuesday 19 February 2008

By Kanaga Raja, Geneva, 18 Feb 2008

Several members, at an informal meeting of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules on 15 February, reiterated their call for the Chair of the Group, Ambassador Guillermo Valles Galmes of Uruguay, to revise his draft negotiating text as soon as possible.

At the meeting, Japan urged the Chair, "in the interest of fairness", to come out with a revised text that would reflect differing views, even in those areas where members are already comfortable. It said that this new version should come out before the start of the horizontal process in the negotiations.

According to trade officials, Brazil, India, the EU and several other members also urged the Chair to revise his text soon.

Chairman Valles Galmes reported to the membership that there was very good discussions in his plurilateral consultations held during the week on topics that were not dealt with during the first in-depth reading of his draft text.

There was constructive participation of delegations. Some elements of the text received wide support, and with technical work could attract consensus. In other areas, there were broad support for the text, but it was clear that much more technical work and reflection are required.

There were also very sharp differences of views on a variety of elements, the resolution of which would depend on the overall balance in the text.

The Chair said that the consultations dealt with such issues as notifications and back-to-back investigations on Monday; various issues regarding injury determination and anti-dumping investigation on behalf of a third country on Tuesday; and draft provisions on transparency and due process on Wednesday and Thursday.

There was general support for transparency provisions on submission of non-confidential summaries, prior notice of verification and public notices.

The Chair said that one concern of developing countries was additional resource burdens, such as in the draft provision (Annex III) calling for periodic reviews of members' anti-dumping practices.

Ambassador Valles Galmes said that he intends to continue his consultations next month.

According to trade officials, Japan urged the Chair, "in the interest of fairness", to come out with a revised text that would reflect differing views, even in those areas were members are already comfortable. It said that this new version should come out before the start of the horizontal process in the negotiations.

Brazil said that the current text does not offer a good basis to move forward, citing, among others, the zeroing issue. It said that agriculture negotiators find comfort in their text, the rules negotiators must also feel this way about their text. It added that comfort must be distributed equally in the Rules area.

India said that there is now enough material for the Chair to establish balance in the text. It cited progress and balance as key challenges for the Group.

According to trade officials, the EU said that almost all the members have objected to the text allowing the use of zeroing, and that it is now time to have a revised text that can be a solid basis for the next phase of negotiations. It said that this balanced text is needed before the horizontal process starts.

Canada said that the current anti-dumping text is unacceptable, and urged that Rules be made part of the horizontal process.

According to trade officials, other delegations that expressed similar views were: Norway, Korea, Switzerland, Indonesia, Pakistan, China, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Hong Kong-China.

The US said that the Chair's text has brought discomfort to all delegations, including itself, but that doesn't mean that the draft is not a basis for negotiations. It said that the text needed more work, and warned that revising the text now would be a rash move. It does not see a need for a revised text "today, tomorrow or in the near future".

Australia said that the Rules text is "dense" and requires a lot of work. It added that not all concerns have been raised, and that it has not completed its consultations with industry on anti-dumping.

New Zealand said that there is still much to discuss in Rules, in particular on fisheries subsidies, and that it is not yet time for a revised text.

Meanwhile, Cote d'Ivoire, on behalf of the African Group, and Jamaica, on behalf of the ACP Group, submitted a joint proposal on special and differential treatment for developing countries in anti-dumping.

They said that their text builds on a previous proposal by Kenya (contained in TN/RL/GEN/143).

According to the joint submission, the proposal by the African and ACP groups includes suggested texts for the modification of Article 15 of the Anti-Dumping Agreement with the aim of ensuring that developing countries are able to take full advantage of the provision, particularly, as it relates to initiation and investigation of dumping under the Agreement and the application of anti-dumping measures against developing country Members.

According to trade officials, the paper was supported by Egypt, Barbados and Lesotho, on behalf of the LDCs.

With regards to the next consultations, several delegations proposed the discussion of the following anti-dumping topics: Korea - de minimis and negligible imports; Chile - the lesser-duty rule; Canada - compliance with DSU anti-dumping decisions; Norway - sampling and threshold of standing; Hong Kong-China - de minimis, negligible imports and cumulation; and the US - preliminary determination, treatment of perishable agricultural products, facts available, and "restoring" rights of members to determine how to spend anti-dumping duties collected.

According to trade officials, the Chair said that he intends to hold the next plurilateral consultations on anti-dumping on 17-19 March, during which the African Group/ACP Group proposal will be taken up.

He said that he would start thinking on how he could reflect the views of all delegations in all areas. He stressed that "comfort" could only be achieved after members have completed their work - and this should be through negotiations between members and not with the Chair.

He also reminded delegations that the Group will hold informal meetings on fisheries subsidies on 18-19 February.

A joint statement by India and the ACP Group on the treatment of artisanal and small-scale fisheries in the fisheries subsidies negotiations (TN/RL/W/217) was also circulated at the informal meeting.

According to India and the ACP Group, the joint statement is intended to emphasize the significance of artisanal and small-scale fishing to developing countries.

"In the spirit of the Doha Development Round, we wish to underline that these types of fisheries are at the core of our development priorities for poverty reduction, the maintenance of livelihoods and food security," said the statement.

The sponsors of the paper said that they subscribe to the objective of conservation and management of fisheries and do not oppose the disciplining of subsidies, in principle. Many developing countries are signatories to UNCLOS and have also adopted various provisions of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries even though the Code is voluntary.

Developing countries are also contributing through constructive engagement in other international programmes associated with migratory and straddling stocks such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.

The sponsors said that they also recognize that fisheries subsidies may contribute to the creation and perpetuation of excess fishing capacity and have the potential to encourage overfishing and distort trade patterns.

However, said the statement, restrictions on the use of legitimate subsidies to the fishing sector can have a detrimental impact on the sustainable development of fisheries-dependent coastal and island communities in developing countries.

"It is therefore imperative that we strive for a balance between sustainability and development. We can only reach a successful conclusion if we are able to meet this challenge."

Although they welcomed the flexibilities accorded to LDCs, regrettably, there are some key areas where the Chair's text falls short of meeting this balance between sustainability and development and does not give enough attention to development needs of developing countries.

Particularly, said the joint statement, the Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) provisions do not address the need of developing countries to preserve policy space and pursue development goals. It is emphasized that the fisheries sector - especially artisanal and small-scale fishing - is not only of economic importance to developing countries, but also a key factor in the drive to eradicate poverty.

"We need to recognize that multilateral rule-making on fisheries is being undertaken in other fora such as FAO and the UN. Hence, negotiations at the WTO must be faithful to the mandate. Not only should there be no duplication in the WTO of the rule making being undertaken at other fora, but also, negotiations at the WTO must not be subject to vetting by these fora."

In sum, said India and the ACP, "inadequate S&DT will have a deep adverse impact on this sector, and as such we ask that Members consider the profound implications of these discussions for the poorest of the poor in our countries." +