NAMA Tariff Negotiation Group meeting March 2012

Yesterday we continued our discussion on the way forward in the NAMA negotiations. This time, the topic was tariffs. At the outset, the Chair stated the three key issues in the tariff negotiation as he saw them: 1) dimension of tariff cuts, 2) modalities and 3) time span of the cut. Then he asked the Members if anything had changed since the last time we discussed this issue in order to allow negotiations to move forward. Afterwards, the Chair made two proposals. The first one focused on technical work and small group brainstorming sessions, taking the Uruguay Round as a starting point and focusing on developing countries. The second suggestion focused on how to attribute INRs (Initial Negotiating Rights) in a plurilateral setting, while taking into account the benefits for the small economies. Finally, the Chair asked Members for their views on the request-offer approach in the negotiations. At that point, the Chair opened the floor to the delegations.

Thailand stated that MA was the stumbling block in the previous negotiations, and suggested that we should look beyond the limits set by the 2008 modalities in order to make progress. Also, Thailand supported the Chair’s initiative of small brainstorming sessions, where candid ideas may be raised in order to break the deadlock.

The EU stated that MA in NAMA was a key issue, and said it was happy to listen to new ideas, such as the technical work in scheduling, however it does not intend this to backtrack negotiations. Finally, it stated that a better approach would be to go forward in NTBs and only afterwards determine how that progress can be linked to Tariffs.

Canada’s Ambassador stated that there has been no progress in the last 3 years, and that the reason for it may be due to the 2008 modalities. Canada did not go all the way to suggest throwing away all the previously achieved progress, but called for new approaches that may bring success.

US stated that it was on listening mode, but considered Tariffs to be at the heart of the NAMA negotiations. It also agreed with Canada in that the 2008 modalities might be hindering the progress of the negotiation. It also stated that it did not see India’s country-specific flexibility interest fruitless in the negotiations, unless India clearly states the specific reasons and circumstances of its request for special treatment.

Argentina stated that it was not comfortable with the 2008 modalities, but nevertheless, it was something it agreed to in order to bring something to the table. Brazil warned against the grave consequences to the negotiation environment if we fail again in the negotiations. It also called necessary trade-offs in other areas for developing countries, ie. Agriculture. Ecuador and Venezuela did not support Thailand’s statement relating to small groups, and called for negotiations to continue in an inclusive manner.

Kenya, on behalf of the African Group, was firm in stating that it did not support unbundling the 2008 modalities, especially when it has not heard any specific details on the problems other Members might see in it. Chinese Taipei and El Salvador also supported to continue the negotiations under the basis set by the 2008 modalities.

The Chair offered his concluding remarks, where he saw arguments for continuing with the 2008 modalities as a basis, as well as arguments for starting afresh, without the limitations imposed by the 2008 modalities. He suggested continuing work in small groups and open-ended meetings in order to find concrete ways forward to respond to the mandate provided during MC8. On the specific conclusions on ways forward, the Chair sensed a broad support in NTBs to continue with technical work in small groups on textile labeling, transparency and maybe a few others. On Wagon 2, the Chair will continue discussions in order to determine the appropriate way forward. Finally, the Chair will convene future meetings in order to continue with the negotiations and determining the right way forward.