With just nine months until the WTO ministerial conference in December in Bali, members have been urged to “shift to a higher gear” by DG Pascal Lamy if they hope to achieve a set of relevant deliverables in time.
The Doha negotiations, launched in September 2001, were formally declared at an impasse during the last WTO ministerial in December 2011. Lamy cautioned on Friday that a repeat of that “will not be in line with the need to strengthen the multilateral trading system.”
The package for the upcoming ministerial would – if completed – likely feature a trade facilitation agreement, a few agriculture-related components, and some provisions aimed at addressing developing country and least developed country (LDC) issues.
An agreement on trade facilitation – which deals with easing customs procedures and cutting time at border crossings – would be the centerpiece of a Bali package.
Several aspect are proving difficult to solve, including some very technical issues around customs cooperation and technical and financial assistance for countries to implement commitments under a trade facilitation deal.
The Director-General cautioned that members should avoid “getting lost” in details of customs procedures and regulations, and to also find a formula that will provide the necessary assurances for members regarding the implementation of commitments and capacity-building. He also noted the importance of needs assessments, and matching up individual needs with donor support.
Members also discussed progress on two proposals that have been under review in the Committee on Agriculture’s special session in recent months. One, put forward by the G-33 coalition of developing countries, suggests that WTO rules be amended to make it easier for developing countries to buy food at administered prices from poor farmers when building public foodstocks or providing domestic food aid. The other, tabled by the G-20 developing group, favours reform of developed country farm policies. It suggests negotiating on issues such as administration of tariff rate quotas or export competition.
The long-standing sticking points of the WTO’s agriculture talks – export subsidies and cotton – were also raised. In Hong Kong in 2005, members decided that developed countries would eliminate export subsidies this year. However, members that have made use of these measures, such as the EU, have traditionally said this agreement was dependent on broader progress in Doha as a whole. The Cotton-4 group – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali – meanwhile raised concerns that the contentious issue of cotton had not seen any recent progress.
Developing country, LDC issues
There are three topics under discussion in this area. The first involves the 28 Cancún proposals, which are aimed at strengthening the special and differential treatment provisions in various WTO agreements. These were agreed in principle ahead of the WTO’s 2003 ministerial conference in Cancún; however, they were ultimately not harvested.
Also under discussion is the so-called Monitoring Mechanism, which would review the functioning of provisions in WTO rules for special and differential treatment in favour of developing countries.
Some progress has also been made on six Agreement-specific proposals, relating to the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Import Licensing Procedures Agreements.
Members are still awaiting proposals from the LDC group specifically regarding preferential treatment to services from LDCs, duty-free quota-free market access, and cotton.
An extension of the transition period for LDCs to implement the WTO’s rules on intellectual property rights is another topic under review. LDCs’ exemption from implementing the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) expires in July of this year; a proposal to extend this deadline further is scheduled to be discussed at next week’s meeting of the organisation’s TRIPS Council.
For more details see full original article on Bridges Weekly here
With just nine months until the WTO ministerial conference in December in Bali, members have been urged to “shift to a higher gear” by DG Pascal Lamy if they hope to achieve a set of relevant deliverables in time. The Doha negotiations were formally declared at an impasse after 10 years, during the last WTO ministerial in December 2011. The package for the upcoming ministerial is likely to feature a trade facilitation agreement, a few agriculture-related components, and some provisions aimed at addressing developing country and least developed country (LDC) issues.