Trade Ministers meeting at Davos on 26 January 2008 to take stock of the Doha Round negotiations

Irrespective of how it is called – dead or comatose or seriously sick – the Doha Round is still kicking. Intensive negotiations are taking place at present and although progress is very slow, it is enough to keep the hopes alive. Commerce Ministers of about two-dozen countries are being invited by the Swiss Economic Minister Ms. Doris Leuthard to exchange their views on the current state of play and agree on a road map for the way forward.

Since the resumption of the negotiating process after the 2007 summer break, the process is now almost fully being controlled from Geneva. As has been the case so far, negotiations on agriculture are still leading the process and are closely followed by negotiations on non-agricultural market access (NAMA). It is now envisaged that the text of modalities (legal text for making final commitments) for agriculture and non-agricultural market access may be finalized by early February 2008.

In the meantime, Mr. Gyermo Valles, the Chairman of the Negotiating Group on Rules has circulated his proposed revisions relating to anti-dumping and subsidies and counter-veiling measures. Further discussions on the basis of his revised texts are scheduled to start later this week. With the circulation of text on Rules, ground work has been completed in the three key areas of negotiations.

Based on these texts, intensive discussions at ambassadorial or senior official levels are expected to start in a horizontal fashion through a “Green Room” process in early February. This would imply finding trade-offs in various areas of negotiations. A few weeks later perhaps in mid-March, a mini-Ministerial meeting is likely to be called for making political decisions on any difficult issues so that modalities in agriculture and NAMA could be finalized.

The next phase, after finalization of modalities, would be the submission of schedules of commitments in agriculture and NAMA. At the same time, final offers on Services are expected to be received to conclude negotiations on Services by June 2008. Furthermore, negotiations on any other outstanding issues would be finalized during this period.

The final phase would be negotiations on the schedules of commitments. This is likely to take another three or four months of negotiations so that the whole agreement may be ready for acceptance by the WTO members before the end of 2008.