New Zealand: A New Trade Round Begins At The WTO

Last Updated: 5 December 2001

In the early hours of the 14th November 2001, Trade Ministers representing all 142 WTO Member countries adopted a Declaration launching a new round of global trade negotiations. The WTO Ministerial Meeting in Doha, Qatar was a marathon effort, but one which has resulted in a mandate for the new trade round that New Zealand businesses and exporters can be pleased with overall. This article by Murray Denyer takes a quick look at what has been decided at Doha, and what this might mean for New Zealand’s trading interests.

A new round is launched

The key outcome from the Doha Ministerial was an agreement to commence a comprehensive new round of trade negotiations. This launch was supposed to have happened at the 1999 Ministerial in Seattle. Reaching agreement at Doha means that the WTO will remain the lead forum for further trade negotiations. If the Doha meeting had failed in the way that Seattle did, then countries would be looking increasingly at bilateral and regional negotiations, and the WTO would have been marginalised. Fortunately, as US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick put it – "the stain of Seattle has been removed".

The Ministerial Declaration

The Ministerial Declaration adopted at Doha is essentially the road map for the new round of trade negotiations among WTO Members. It outlines both the general scope and the timing of negotiations that will now take place. In other words, the Declaration spells out what is on the table for negotiation, and the deadlines for reaching agreement. (The text of the Declaration, WT/Min(01)/DEL/W/1, can be found on the WTO’s website,


Probably of greatest importance to New Zealand are paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Declaration, which deal specifically with agriculture. In paragraph 13, Ministers commit to comprehensive negotiations aimed at:

  • substantial improvements in market access for agriculture;
  • reductions of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies; and
  • substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support.

At the Doha meeting, the EU fought very hard to remove the "phasing out" language on export subsidies. New Zealand and other agricultural exporters in the "Cairns Group" of countries fought just as hard to keep elimination of export subsidies in the Declaration as a negotiating objective. As a compromise, the "phasing out" goal has stayed in the text, but the commitments on agriculture now have the qualification "without prejudging the outcome of the negotiations".

Paragraph 13 of the Declaration also contains a reference to so-called "non-trade concerns". The Declaration simply says that these concerns will be noted and taken into account in the negotiations. This, however, will be the language through which WTO Members like the EU and Japan will seek to maintain their existing high levels of agricultural protectionism. The EU’s concept of "multi-functionality" will undoubtedly rear its head here. The EU argues that the negotiations must take into account the "multifunctional" nature of agriculture in the EU – namely that agriculture also serves the purposes of preserving the rural environment, rural lifestyles, and so on. The EU can be expected to resort to these arguments in order to defend its existing high levels of agricultural subsidies and other forms of trade protectionism in agriculture. This will be one of the most problematic issues for New Zealand in the new round.

Most importantly for New Zealand, paragraph 14 of the Declaration makes it clear that negotiations on agriculture are to be concluded as part and parcel of the entire negotiating agenda of this round (i.e. as part of the "single undertaking"). Paragraph 14 also provides that the modalities (the "when", "what" and "how") for further commitments on agriculture are to be established no later than 31 March 2003.

The result on agriculture in the Doha Declaration is a very good one for New Zealand. It means that agriculture has not been sidelined from the wider negotiations. WTO Members are now bound to negotiate and agree meaningful commitments on agriculture as part of the negotiations as a whole. Agreement on the "single undertaking" will not be possible without agreement on further liberalisation in agriculture. For the first time, the phasing out of export subsidiaries is on the table as an agreed negotiating goal. It remains to be seen, however, just how "substantial" the agreed improvements in market access and reductions in domestic support will actually be. The only agreement so far is that there is a lot of hard work to be done between now and March 2003!


Like agriculture, a mandate to commence a new round of negotiations in the area of services was already built into the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) back in 1995 (the so-called "built-in agenda"). Accordingly, those negotiations got a head start, and have been under way since January 2000. The Ministerial Declaration from Doha recognises the work already undertaken to date under the earlier mandate, and sets time lines for initial requests from WTO Members for specific commitments on services (by 30 June 2002), and initial offers (by 31 March 2003).

Services will be an important area of the negotiations for New Zealand. As a result of further reforms in the second half of the 1990s, the services market in New Zealand is already a good deal more liberalised than the level of commitments we made at the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, and which are embodied in our GATS Schedule. We therefore have some negotiating room – we can offer to make binding commitments in many areas that will be relatively painless, since in many cases the new commitments will simply lock in existing levels of liberalisation and access in our domestic market. In exchange, New Zealand service industries should expect to secure gains in overseas markets.

Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products

In the Declaration, Ministers have agreed to negotiations for the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers on industrial products. The mandate is a comprehensive one with no sectors or products excluded. Under pressure from developing and least developed country participants, specific wording was added at Doha which clarifies that those countries’ needs and interests must be taken into account, including through less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments. The language on tariff reduction for non-agricultural products is more specific than for agriculture (it refers to the reduction or elimination of tariff peaks, high tariffs and tariff escalation). It is perhaps unfortunate that this more specific mandate was not possible for agricultural tariffs.

Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

Ministers adopted a separate Declaration on TRIPs and public health, which addresses developing country concerns about access to medicines to combat epidemics like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. This TRIPS Declaration clarifies that the TRIPS Agreement can and should be interpreted and implemented in a way that supports countries’ rights to protect public health and to promote access to medicines for all. The Declaration also gives least-developed WTO Member countries longer to implement some of the TRIPS Agreement obligations that could otherwise hinder their access to medicines. While recognising the importance of intellectual property rights in the development of new medicines, this separate Declaration gives developing and least-developed countries some additional flexibility in order to combat epidemic diseases.

In the main Declaration, Ministers also agreed to negotiate a multilateral system for notification and registration of geographical indications for wines and spirits. This is an issue that has been driven in particular by the EU who wish to codify protection for geographical indications such as Champagne, Port, Chianti, and so on. New Zealand has in the past resisted such efforts as they are largely driven by the EU’s "old world" wine producers, who are seeking to close out competition from "new world" producers like New Zealand, Chile, the US and Australia. However, the growing international recognition of regions like Marlborough and the Hawkes Bay could benefit from the additional protection that such a global agreement might provide.

The WTO TRIPS Council (a standing WTO body) has been mandated to examine the possible application of geographical indication protection to products other than wine and spirits. (Again, the EU has an interest in exclusive name protection for products such as "European" cheese varieties – gouda, edam, feta, etc.) The TRIPS Council will also examine the relationship between the TRIPS agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as the protection of traditional knowledge and folk law. While all of these issues have rated a mention in the Ministerial Declaration, they have effectively been "parked" in the TRIPS Council. More analytical work will now be done on these issues, but they are unlikely to form part of the overall package which is agreed at the end of this new round, since there is no agreed mandate to commence negotiations on these issues.

The "New Issues"

The EU has pushed hard for some time to have four "new issues" included in the new trade round. These are:

  • rules on the relationship between trade and investment;
  • rules on the relationship between trade and competition;
  • rules on transparency in government procurement; and
  • clarification on the existing rules on trade facilitation (in particular rules for goods in transit, customs procedures, and other importation formalities).

The EU faced strong opposition at the Doha Ministerial from the developing countries, who did not want to commence negotiations on these issues before the results of the previous round are fully implemented. (A separate Decision on implementation-related issues was also adopted – see below).

The compromise that emerged on the "new issues" was that in each case, further analytical work will be commenced, and the Fifth Ministerial Conference (which will take place no later than two years from now) will then decide whether or not to commence negotiations proper on these issues.

This outcome effectively defers the decision on whether or not the "new issues" will form part of the final outcome of the new round until the Fifth Ministerial.

WTO Rules

In the Ministerial Declaration, Ministers have agreed to commence negotiations aimed at clarifying and improving the existing WTO rules that deal with antidumping and countervailing duties. This was the result of a major concession by the US, which has been widely criticised (in particular by developing countries) over the use of the existing rules by its domestic industries to keep cheaper imported products out of the US market. Developing countries (who are most often the target of anti-dumping measures) will be looking to tighten up the circumstances under which WTO Members can legitimately take anti-dumping action.

Fisheries subsidies have also been singled out for special attention. New Zealand has been among a vanguard of countries that have been pushing to eliminate fisheries subsidies. It is widely agreed that these subsidies not only distort the international market prices for fish and fish products, but that they also encourage unsustainable fishing practices (over-fishing). Removal of such subsidies is therefore a "win win" outcome: fairer competition in international markets, and less degradation of fish stocks. The New Zealand fishing industry in particular stands to benefit from any newly agreed commitments to reduce and eliminate fisheries subsidies.

Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU)

New Zealand has been actively involved in the negotiations to date on improvements and clarifications of the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding. The DSU is part of the WTO Agreement and sets out the detailed rules and procedures for the bringing of disputes between WTO Members about alleged breaches of the WTO rules. The provisions of the DSU that deal with implementation and enforcement of rulings that are made by WTO dispute settlement panels and the Appellate Body are less than clear. The overall timing of the dispute settlement process could also benefit from tightening up. At Doha, Ministers agreed to further negotiations based on the work done so far, with the aim of agreeing improvements and clarifications no later than May 2003. Any agreed results will then enter into force as soon as possible thereafter. In other words, any agreement to amend the DSU will be fast-tracked into effect, possibly well ahead of the other outcomes.

Trade and Environment

The draft Declaration that was circulated prior to the Doha meeting proposed little in the way of concrete action on trade and the environment during the upcoming negotiating round. All that changed at Doha. Trade and environment was the most controversial and difficult area to resolve. There was enormous pressure from the EU to put more environmental issues on the agenda. The Ministerial Declaration that was finally agreed commits to negotiations ("without prejudging the outcome") on:

  • the relationship between the existing WTO rules and the trade obligations set out in the various multilateral environment agreements (MEAs);
  • procedures for regular information exchange between MEA Secretariats and the WTO standing committees; and
  • the reduction or elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to "environmental goods and services".

There will also be further analytical work in the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (but no negotiations proper) on:

  • the effect of environmental measures on market access (in particular for developing countries);
  • the relevant provisions of the TRIPS Agreement; and
  • labelling requirements for environmental purposes.

The agreement to commence negotiations on the first group of issues is a new development, and one that New Zealand will need to watch carefully. While it is good to see the WTO being forced to focus on environmental issues that are relevant to international trade, the risk here is that environmental objectives will simply be a disguise for trade protectionism by the EU in particular. The scope of these negotiations has, however, been carefully limited:

  • negotiations on the WTO/MEA relationship is limited to negotiation only on the applicability of the WTO rules as between the parties to the MEA in question;
  • the negotiations are not to prejudice the WTO rights of any WTO member that is not a party to the MEA in question; and
  • the negotiations must be compatible with the open and non-discriminatory nature of the multilateral trading system, and are not to add to or diminish the rights and obligations of Members under the existing WTO agreements, and in particular under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitory measures (the SPS Agreement).

Trade and environment is likely to be one of the most difficult areas of negotiations in the new round.

Ministerial Decision on Implementation-related issues and concerns

Developing countries have a wide range of concerns relating to the implementation of the existing WTO agreements. These include their ability to reap the full benefit of the existing rules, as well as their ability to full implement their existing obligations.

The Ministerial Decision clarifies (and broadens the interpretation of) a number of exceptions and other provisions in the existing WTO agreements that were originally inserted for the benefit of developing countries. The Decision also tasks some of the standing WTO Committees with undertaking further analytical work on certain existing WTO rules that affect developing countries. The Decisions also urges developed WTO Members to exercise due restraint in enforcing certain rules against developing countries, and to provide technical assistance to developing countries in their implementation of the agreements.

Fortunately, efforts by developing countries at Doha to open up the text of some of the existing WTO agreements (the SPS, TBT and Anti-Dumping Agreements in particular) were successfully resisted.

Timing – what next?

The main Ministerial Declaration provides that all negotiations pursued under it shall be concluded not later than 1 January 2005. Given what has to be achieved in the interim, that is probably an ambitious deadline. The Fifth Ministerial Session, which will take place towards the end of 2003, will be a stock-taking exercise and will provide any necessary political guidance to the negotiators. As noted above, it will also take decisions on whether to commence negotiations on the "new issues". Once the negotiations have been concluded, a Special Session of the Ministerial Conference will be held to adopt and implement the results.

The WTO’s principle political body, the General Council, has established a Trade Negotiations Committee which will supervise the overall conduct of the negotiation process. The first meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee will take place prior to 31 January 2002.

The January meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee is likely to be largely an organisational affair. The real work will start to take place in the various working groups that are set up by the Committee. It will be some time later before we start to see any real results emerging.

In the meantime, it will be important for New Zealand industry and other interest groups to continue to make their positions known to the Government. These groups can and do have an impact on the shape of New Zealand’s trade policy position. In turn, we are fortunate that as a nation that depends heavily on rules-based international trade, we continue to have an impact on the negotiations that is disproportionate to our small size.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions