Tuesday, March 3, 2009

WTO: Nama meeting proposed for March to advance negotiations

Although there was a readiness to work on technical issues and move forward with the discussions regarding non-agricultural market access (Nama) of the Doha round of trade negotiations, “some people don’t know yet how to do it”, stated Nama negotiating group chairperson Luzius Wasescha.

Addressing an informal meeting at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Wasescha proposed a meeting on March 19, to address non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade excluding technical issues, and to run a technical barriers to trade (TBT)-related NTB proposals gathering.

He hoped that the meeting would help stakeholders to push forward with the negotiations.

“After eight years of negotiations, there is an awareness that a lot of work still is to be done. It would be a coordinators run process, where proponents may need to update their proposals in light of the new economic situation we now find ourselves in – one illustrator is the car sector. In some cases, the proposals are just concept papers which will need much more work than others which are in a much more advanced stage, for instance, chemicals,” he said at the meeting on Friday.

With regard to sectoral meetings, he said that the stakeholders would start a fact-based approach to discussions sector by sector. These would address numbers, tariff lines, simulations and country-by-country analysis. These discussions will take place bilaterally with the relevant trading partners - understanding that all partners who are trading are relevant.

Wasescha also made it clear, that his text on NTBs would not change unless there were additional substantive, or important inputs from members.

“There was also an exchange of views on the European Commission (EC) proposal on export taxes, where the EC indicated that it did not intend to pursue their proposal further, provided that the July package was the basis of further work. My understanding is, therefore, that if there was to be a further revision of the draft modalities text, this proposal would not be in,” he further added.

Proposals to eliminate tariffs in certain industrial sectors have remained one of the most heated areas of dispute in the talks on freeing up commerce in industrial and agricultural products.

The proposed WTO agreement would cut subsidies and tariffs on a wide range of traded goods and cross-border services, opening up food, fuel, transportation, and other markets, encouraging global economic activity.

South Africa has its own particular vulnerabilities and positions to defend at the negotiations. The depths of the cuts that South Africa was being requested to take in the industrial tariffs, were the deepest cuts of any developed or developing country, in this round. While only moderate reforms were proposed for agriculture.