Tough Going on NAMA Formula Talks

Original Publication Date: 
21 September, 2005

Geneva - The chairman of the Doha Development Agenda market access negotiations for industrials, Stefan Hakur Johannesson, yesterday made some headway in jump-starting negotiations on a tariff-cutting formula - but sharp differences exist on details between the "Friends of Ambition" led by the United States and the so-called "ABI" - Argentina, Brazil and India - group, WTD has learned (WTD, 9/21/05).

Chairman Johannesson insisted that members discuss figures for the coefficients along with "paragraph eight" flexibility and treatment of unbound tariffs for developing countries based on several proposals already tabled in the talks.

In the face of differences, the chairman conceded at the end of the day that the three issues - formula, flexibility and treatment of unbound tariffs - will have to be approached in an "integrated" framework.

But members of the ABI group - along with several African countries - said the formula has no linkage with "paragraph eight" flexibilities and the treatment of unbound tariffs in the July 2004 framework agreement.

Washington suggested that the best way to arrive at the figures for the formula would be through bilateral and small group meetings. The United States - along with New Zealand and Norway - pressed members to perform a simulation exercise by combining "formula, flexibility and unbound tariffs" in the different proposals.

LDCs Object

But Argentina and Jamaica objected, saying there are other issues in the Doha trade negotiations that need similar treatment, trade diplomats told WTD. Mexico and Pakistan elaborated on their approaches based on the Swiss framework with two different coefficients. Mexico suggested that members take new commitments depending upon the degree of ambition in the formula - which would in turn determine the level of flexibilities and treatment of unbound tariffs. Mexico said the lower the coefficient in a formula for developing countries, the higher would be the flexibility and softer the treatment for unbound tariffs.

Pakistan reiterated a suggestion made during the informal ministerial meeting in Dalian in July that developing countries have a coefficient of "30" in the formula while industrialized countries be given a coefficient of "six" in the construction of the "Swiss" formula.

The "A/B/I" group dismissed both proposals, saying the formula is de-linked from flexibility and treatment of unbound tariffs.

In addition to discussing the formula, Japan and Switzerland suggested that there be broad guidelines for the nonagricultural market access product-list - that would not be mandatory. Japan had opposed preparation of a NAMA product list in the past.

New proposals also were submitted for "zero-for-zero" tariff elimination. Thailand and the United States sought a sectoral agreement on gems and jewelry. Taiwan pressed for sports items and bicycles and Japan and South Korea said they want sectoral deals on electronics in addition to automotive parts.