Pakistan and others propose a new procedure for solution of non-tariff barriers

A large number of WTO Members, who generally have a very different perspective on removal or reduction of tariffs, have joined together to submit a proposal (TN/MA/W/88 of 23 July 2007) for the facilitation of resolution of non-tariff barriers. Besides Pakistan the sponsors include least-developed countries, African Group, NAMA 11 (India, Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa etc), EU, New Zealand, and Switzerland etc.

It may be recalled that under Doha Ministerial declaration removal of NTBs is an integral part of market access negotiations. Many delegates, especially from the developing countries fear that market access gained through reduction of tariffs can be diluted or even denied through NTBs. This proposal is “solution based” approach to resolve the NTB issues.

In terms of this proposal, any Member could initiate proceedings. The Chairman or Vice Chairpersons of the relevant WTO Committee would be required to convene a meeting of the parties to address the issue and explore next steps. This includes appointment of a facilitator and seeking mutually agreed solution. It would be mandatory to engage in the negotiation upon request by any trading partner directly or through the office of facilitator. However, parties can decline to implement the decision / recommendation of the facilitator.

The role of facilitation would be to offer advice and propose solutions within an agreed time frame. The Chairperson of the concerned WTO Committee is required to provide an annual status report. If proposed solution is not implemented the declining party is required to state the reasons. It has also been proposed that a review of the procedure would be conducted not later than 3 years. If the process is found to be working successfully, it may be extended to other WTO agreements.