A Work Program for NAMA

Original Publication Date: 
5 March, 2006
Geneva - Doha Development Agenda market access for industrials Chairman Don Stephenson on Friday issued a detailed work program to accelerate talks on the most difficult issues a formula for cutting tariffs, the treatment of unbound tariffs and flexibilities for developing countries (see related report this issue).

After a week-long meeting that lasted until Friday a group of developing countries led by South Africa brought to the fore the issue of proportionality between farm market access and market-opening for industrials. As a result, the chairman is now laying the groundwork for accelerating the NAMA talks beginning at the next special negotiating session set for March 20.

But Ambassador Stephenson reminded members that the NAMA are taking a "bottom-up" approach, leaving the bulk of the decisions to members.

Last week's meeting largely focused on three fundamental issues how to address nontariff barriers, establishing flexibilities under "Paragraph Eight" for developing countries and bringing alignment of the NAMA negotiations with enhanced market-opening in agriculture while taking into account the principle of balanced and proportional treatment.

"Paragraph Eight" flexibilities, said one "Friends of Ambition" negotiator, is becoming a real problem in the NAMA talks. He noted that developing countries are seeking carve outs from tariff cuts for some sectors. He noted that flexibilities set out in the 2004 framework agreement relate to longer implementation periods, applying less-than-formula cuts to a specific number of tariff lines and keeping some tariff lines unbound.

'Paragraph Eight'

While Chile and Mexico floated the idea of trading "Paragraph Eight" flexibilities for other concessions, many developing countries led by Brazil, Argentina, India and China said "Paragraph Eight" is a stand-alone provision in the mandate. China said "Paragraph Eight" is a fundamental principle in the negotiations. Developing countries have proposed a minimum of 10 percent of their tariff lines for the application of less-than-formula cuts or 5 percent not subject to tariff cuts at all.

South Africa who leads a NAMA-11 developing-country coalition said the central goal of the Doha negotiations is for industrialized countries to reduce protection for their inefficient industries that continue to frustrate the growth potential of developing countries.

But Taiwan complained that the initiative amounts of watering down the level of ambition in the NAMA negotiation.

Meanwhile, Japan last week presented a list of export restrictions and import licensing procedures that should be tackled as part of the Doha negotiations.

But reaction from developing countries was harsh, with several members slamming Tokyo, saying the proposal amounts to altering the NAMA negotiating agenda. Venezuela, Brazil, India and Argentina all said the proposal amounts to undertaking additional negotiating commitments. China and Argentina reminded Japan that export restrictions are legitimate instruments.

But industrialized countries largely welcomed the proposal, with Japan gaining tentative backing from the EU. The United States and Switzerland said they were open to the idea.

The Japanese delegation has organized a detailed session on this issue on Tuesday.

Also last week there were meetings centered around 10 sectoral tariff-cutting initiatives covering raw materials, autos and auto parts, chemicals, bicycles and related parts, sports equipment, electrical and electrical parts, pharmaceuticals and health care devices, gems and jewelry, forest products and fish products.

Also held was an unusual face-to-face meeting between WTO negotiators and US and European textile industry executives. The industry executives are pushing for a special sectoral agreement on textile trade pointing primarily to the dominant role in world textile trade that China is commanding and will continue to gain after the Doha negotiations.

In comments to the press last week from New Delhi, US Trade Representative Rob Portman said the United States was considering such a sectoral approach. He discussed the issue earlier in the week during a visit with textile executives in South Carolina.

However, Mr. Portman stated, it is premature for the United States to make any decision on a textile sectoral. He also reminded reporters that any such sectoral agreement would be voluntary.